Tuberculosis (TB)

TB treatment and care

Five year old Priscilla Jimenez Flores, takes her medication with her single mother at the local state clinic, Lima, Peru.
WHO/Samuel Nutall

To cure TB and reduce disease transmission, patients should be placed on effective treatment soon after diagnosis. Treatment should be provided to all who need it regardless of age, sex, gender or type of TB disease, bacteriological status, co-morbidities or legal status of the patient. In most circumstances, community-based treatment adherence support may lead to more favourable treatment outcomes. Ensuring all TB patients have access to free-of-charge life-saving treatment is fundamental to minimizing disease and deaths due to TB.

fact buffet


53 million lives saved since 2000 through effective diagnosis and TB treatment

Global TB report 2017 facts
pdf, 592kb

TB treatment

83%of people newly diagnosed with TB successfully completed treatment in 2016

Global TB report 2017
pdf, 288kb

MDR-TB treatment

54%of MDR-TB patients globally were treated successfully in 2016

MDR-TB factsheet
pdf, 426kb

Key topics

Guidelines for treatment of drug-susceptible tuberculosis and patient care (2017 update)

The WHO Guidelines for treatment of drug-susceptible tuberculosis and patient care (2017 update) contains policy recommendations on priority areas in the treatment of drug-susceptible TB and patient care. The revision is in accordance with the WHO requirements for the formulation of evidence-based policy.

Treatment of drug-resistant TB

Resistance to TB drugs is a formidable obstacle to effective TB care and prevention globally. Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is multifactorial and fuelled by improper treatment of patients, poor management of supply and quality of drugs, and airborne transmission of bacteria in public places. Case management becomes difficult and the challenge is compounded by catastrophic economic and social costs that patients incur while seeking help and on treatment.

New drugs/regimens for the treatment of tuberculosis in countries

The landscape of drug development for treatment of tuberculosis (TB) has evolved dramatically over the last ten years. A series of Phase II and III trials of shortened treatment of drug-susceptible (DS) TB including repurposed drugs (e.g. fluoroquinolones) or new dosages of known drugs (e.g. rifamycin, rifapentine) are presently on-going.

TB comorbidities and risk factors

Several medical conditions are risk factors for TB and for poor TB treatment results, while TB can complicate the disease course of some diseases. It is therefore important to identify these comorbidities in people diagnosed with TB in order to ensure early diagnosis and improve co-management. When these conditions are highly prevalent in the general population they can be important contributors to the TB burden. Consequently, reducing the prevalence of these conditions can help prevent TB.

Patient support

Taking TB medications as prescribed is the most essential aspect of TB treatment, both to protect the patient’s own health and to prevent the further spread of the disease and the development of drug-resistant strains. Partnership is an important key to success. It is crucial that patients should be engaged as partners in the treatment process, respecting their autonomy and privacy. While people with TB have an ethical duty to complete therapy, providers’ obligations to the patient and the public create a duty to support patients’ ability to adhere to treatment.

Ethical issues

Prevention, care and control of TB raise not only technical, but also important ethical and policy issues that need to be adequately addressed. For instance, recent cases of involuntary detentions of people with TB in several parts of the world have brought up the question of how to balance individual rights and liberties against the protection of public health. WHO has developed guidance in this area entitled Guidance on Ethics of TB Prevention, Care and Control.

News and events

  • May 2015

    New additions to the WHO Essential Medicines List related to TB treatment

    The 20th WHO Expert Committee meeting on the selection and use of essential medicines has recommended the inclusion of five medicines (bedaquiline, delamanid, linezolid, rifapentine and terizidone) in the anti- tuberculosis medicines section of the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines.