Latent tuberculosis infection: Opportunities and challenges

Cynthia B.E. Chee, Randall Reves, Ying Zhang, Robert Belknap

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Diagnosing and treating latent tuberculosis (TB) infection (LTBI) is recognized by the World Health Organization as an important strategy to accelerate the decline in global TB and achieve TB elimination. Even among low-TB burden countries that have achieved high rates of detection and successful treatment for active TB, a number of barriers have prevented implementing or expanding LTBI treatment programmes. Of those infected with TB, relatively few will develop active disease and the current diagnostic tests have a low predictive value. LTBI treatment using isoniazid (INH) has low completion rates due to the long duration of therapy and poor tolerability. Both patients and physicians often perceive the risk of toxicity to be greater than the risk of reactivation TB. As a result, LTBI treatment has had a limited or negligible role outside of countries with high resources and low burden of disease. New tools have emerged including the interferon-gamma release assays that more accurately diagnose LTBI, particularly in people vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette–Guerin (BCG). Shorter, better tolerated treatment using rifamycins are proving safe and effective alternatives to INH. While still imperfect, TB prevention using these new diagnostic and treatment tools appear cost effective in modelling studies in the United States and have the potential to improve TB prevention efforts globally. Continued research to understand the host–organism interactions within the spectrum of LTBI is needed to develop better tools. Until then, overcoming the barriers and optimizing our current tools is essential for progressing toward TB elimination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-900
Number of pages8
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • isoniazid
  • latent tuberculosis
  • rifampin
  • rifapentine
  • tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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