Both latent tuberculosis infection and TB disease can be treated, but each requires a different approach. Those people infected with latent TB do not yet show symptoms of sickness, but they carry the TB bacteria in their system. When TB bacteria become active, the sickness progresses to TB disease, which makes the sufferer sick and contagious, as noted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those people infected with latent TB bacteria are not yet showing symptoms of being sick. They are not contagious. However, the latent TB bacteria can quickly progress to an active mode, which is referred to as TB disease. Therefore, patients who have latent TB bacteria are treated to prevent this progression to TB disease. Treatment for latent TB infection is much simpler than for those with TB disease and includes three medications: isoniazid, rifampin and rifapentine.
The treatment process for active TB disease can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months. The main medical treatments that doctors in the United States turn to include: isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol and pyrazinamide. Different methods of treatment are effective at different points during the 6- to 9-month treatment time frame. As with most bacterial infections, it is important for the patient to complete all medicines prescribed and taken as directed. Stopping the medical treatment too soon can lead to further and more severe active TB infection that can be even harder to treat.