Drugs & Aging

, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 663–686 | Cite as

Revised Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Control of Tuberculosis

Impact on Management in the Elderly
Review Article


Despite major progress in the development of new strategies for diagnosing and treating tuberculosis, the disease still remains a major challenge for healthcare workers throughout the world. A number of causes are responsible for this threat but, unfortunately, many of these cannot be resolved easily because of cultural and social factors. Furthermore, not all countries throughout the world have enough financial resources to support educational and therapeutic programmes. The major challenges with tuberculosis are 2-fold: (i) to deal with the growing epidemic around the world (and especially in ‘low-income’ [developing] countries), and; (ii) to ensure correct use of antituberculosis medications in order to protect these drugs for future use. In ‘high-income’ countries, a major decline in the incidence of tuberculosis has been observed. Nevertheless, tuberculosis remains an important challenge in some risk groups, particularly the elderly patient, in these countries. The clinical and radiological presentations are often nonspecific, leading to delayed diagnosis and appropriate treatment, which often results in a large proportion of cases being discovered at autopsy only. Considering tuberculosis in the differential diagnosis remains the cornerstone of a fast and accurate diagnosis of this condition.

Management of active tuberculosis in the elderly does not differ fundamentally from that in younger patients with respect to outcomes or adverse effects of treatment. However, empirical treatment perhaps may be considered more readily in the elderly patient.

Elderly persons infected with tuberculosis at the beginning of the 20th century constitute a large reservoir of latent tuberculosis infection. Furthermore, these individuals are at increased risk of reactivation of this remote infection as their immunological status declines with aging. Compared with the past, modern guidelines are less reluctant to recommend use of tuberculin skin testing, treatment of latent tuberculosis infection in elderly persons, and prevention of transmission of tuberculosis in nursing homes.


Tuberculosis Rifampicin Isoniazid Tuberculin Skin Test Pulmonary Tuberculosis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The author has no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.


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© Adis Data Information BV 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of PulmonologyUniversity Hospital Gasthuisberg, Katholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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