There are two aspects of prevention with regards to tuberculosis:
- Keeping uninfected persons from getting TB by treating infectious patients (those with active TB disease) quickly, with possible isolation until they are infection-free
- Keeping patients with tuberculosis infection from developing active disease with the use of the same drug therapy used to treat active TB
Another preventive measure used widely in some countries outside of the United States is the BCG anti-tuberculosis vaccine, which is usually given to children several times during childhood and has been shown to reduce (but not completely eliminate) the risk of getting tuberculosis. Its effectiveness, however, is debated by the scientific community.
Treatment consists of drugs aimed at killing tubercle bacillus. Surgery is also used in some rare advanced cases to remove tuberculosis lesions from affected areas. Most people get the so-called first-line drugs (recommended by the World Health Organization). First-line drugs include isioniazid, streptomycin, ethambutol, rifampicin, thiacetazone, and pyrazinamide. A combination of these drugs is taken daily by mouth for six months. A reaction to these drugs in some people may include nausea, vomiting, and heightened sensitivity to the sun.
More recently, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB) has become more of a problem, because bacteria may become resistant to certain drugs. Multi-drug resistance means that the person is resistant to not one, but two or more of the first-line drugs. In the case of MDRTB, so-called second-line drugs are used, which are meant to treat the infection in the same way as the first-line drugs, only they tend to be more toxic and people taking those drugs complain of more severe side effects.