Latent TB infection happens when a person becomes infected with the TB bacteria but does not have any symptoms, is not yet ill and cannot transmit the disease. The TB bacteria can lie dormant for years before becoming an active TB infection. Persons with compromised immune systems or young children have a much higher risk of moving from latent to active TB.
Despite TB being both a curable and treatable disease, millions of people are still dying from the disease every year. It’s time to revisit how we’re tackling this disease, and adopt a comprehensive approach to prevention, detection and treatment.
Those who live with TB patients have a 25 times higher risk of progression from latent to active TB than the general population. And children up to five years age have the highest risk of progression from infection to TB disease.
Treatment for latent TB infection has been available since the 1960s, yet very few people who are eligible for TB preventive therapy are taking it. Current treatment options are long—with people required to take a pill daily for 6 to 36 months. Even among those who start treatment, many fail to complete the full course.
In 2016, only 12 of the 30 high-burden TB countries reported use of the current treatment of choice for latent TB – Isoniazid Preventive Therapy (IPT). Only 13 percent of children aged under five years who were eligible for it started preventive therapy.