What is Latent Tuberculosis Infection?

What is latent TB infection?

In most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing.  The bacteria become inactive, but they remain alive in the body and can become active later.  This is called latent TB infection.  People with latent TB infection

  • Have no symptoms
  • Don't feel sick
  • Can't spread TB to others
  • Usually have a positive skin test reaction
  • Can develop TB disease later in life if they do not receive treatment for latent TB infection

Many people who have latent TB infection never develop TB disease.  In these people, the TB bacteria remain inactive for a lifetime without causing disease.  But in other people, especially people who have weak immune systems, the bacteria become active and cause TB disease or also known as active tuberculosis.

What is the TB Skin Test?

The TB skin test tells you if the tuberculosis bacteria are in your body.  Your health care professional places a small amount of solution under the skin with a needle to see if a reaction occurs.

How Do I Get My TB Test Results?

Within 2-3 days after the test, you'll be asked to return to your health care professional.  Be sure to keep this appointment.  Your test results will be evaluated during this visit.  In some cases, a second test may be done to confirm results.

What do the Test Results Mean?

No reaction or negative results mean you probably don't have the tuberculosis bacteria in your body

A reaction or positive results, with the induration or bump measured in millimeters, mean you may have been infected with the tuberculosis bacteria.  This doesn't necessarily mean you have TB disease (or active tuberculosis)--you may have TB infection (LTBI).  More tests, such as chest x-rays, are needed to find out if you have TB disease.

Whether you have TB disease or infection, you must see a health care professional for evaluation and treatment.

What is the Medication for TB infection (LTBI)?

The medication usually used for the treatment of latent TB infection is a drug called Isoniazid or INH.  INH kills the TB bacteria in the body.  If you take your medicine as prescribed, treatment for latent TB infection will keep you from ever developing TB disease.

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