Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that can affect children if they are exposed to the disease-causing bacterium. And, as with adults, the duration of treatment for tuberculosis in children is lengthy. To be more specific, the treatment lasts 6 months. However, if a child is infected with HIV, the treatment period is 9 months. To make things easier, a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine investigated the efficacy of tuberculosis treatment in children. Following the findings of this study, the World Health Organization revised its global guidelines for disease management.

Reduced treatment duration for minor tuberculosis

The majority of children with drug-sensitive tuberculosis can have their treatment duration reduced from six to four months, according to researchers from the University College London. The new study discovered that, instead of six months, four months of treatment with the same standard medicines was just as effective for children with minor tuberculosis. This significantly reduces the burden on families and healthcare systems worldwide. According to researchers, the majority of children with tuberculosis, nearly a quarter, die. However, the vast majority of these deaths, nearly 90%, are the result of delayed diagnosis and treatment. Many lives can be saved if cancer is detected early and treated promptly.

Treatment length for children with tuberculosis now reduced: Research

What exactly is minimal tuberculosis?

Minimal tuberculosis is defined as non-severe lung or lymph gland tuberculosis. Through smear microscopy, the TB bacteria cannot be easily identified in the sputum. According to available data, approximately 1.1 million children became ill with tuberculosis (TB) worldwide in 2020, with the majority of them having a non-severe form of the disease, as opposed to adult patients. However, the duration of their treatment has always been six months of a combination of daily medications. Children are frequently required to miss school during treatment, which increases the burden on caregivers.

WHO treatment guidelines have been modified.

After reviewing the evidence presented by the researchers, the World Health Organization Guidelines Development Group recommended in August 2021 that a four-month regimen, rather than the standard six-month regimen, be used in children and adolescents with non-severe, presumed drug susceptible TB. Important considerations for determining eligibility for the shorter treatment regimen will be described in WHO’s full consolidated guidelines, which will be published in the operational handbook later this month.

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