Treatments and tests

Preventative treatment for tuberculosis (TB) infection

You have a positive Tuberculin Skin Test (TST) or QuantiFERON blood test: what does this mean?

If your TST (Mantoux) or Quantiferon blood test was found to be positive, this means you have a latent TB infection, but usually not the active disease.

Does everyone with the tuberculosis infection develop the active disease?

No. Not everyone with the TB infection develops the active disease.

What happens if you have ‘latent’ or ‘sleeping’ TB?

Tuberculosis infection occurs when you breathe in TB bacteria while you are exposed to someone who has active TB in their lungs. Usually, the body’s defences control the infection, but the bacteria can remain in the body for years in an inactive or ‘latent’ state. There is a small risk of developing TB disease (active TB) sometime later in life. About 90 per cent of people will not develop the active disease.

People with TB infection:

  • have no symptoms and do not feel sick
  • cannot spread TB to anyone else
  • usually have a positive TST or QFN test
  • usually have a normal chest X-ray.

If taken correctly, preventative treatment can significantly reduce the risk of people with the latent TB infection developing the active TB disease.

What is the treatment?

At your doctor’s appointment, you will discuss your risk of developing the TB disease and also the treatment options available.

You must tell your doctor what medicine you are taking, your medical history and if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If it is decided that you should have preventative medication, the usual treatment is antibiotic tablets, taken once a day for 6 months. It is important to understand that, once you have started the medication, you should continue taking it without interruption.

Treatment taken irregularly or not completed fully may result in the treatment not being effective in reducing the risk of future disease.

Are there any side effects?

Different preventative medication can cause side effects in some people. If side effects occur it is important to report them to your TB case manager or doctor immediately. Some of the potential side effects to be aware of when taking TB medication are:

  • itchy skin
  • skin rashes, bruising or yellow skin
  • upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or loss of appetite
  • lack of feeling or tingling in the hands or feet
  • changes in your eyesight, particularly changes in red or green colour vision
  • dark coloured urine
  • yellow eyes.

What other precautions can I take?

  • Advise your TB doctor if you are taking other medication or remedies.
  • Show your GP/family doctor your medication if you need other treatment or are going into hospital.
  • Alcohol should be avoided during the 6 months of treatment.
  • Keep all medication out of reach of children and store them in a cool, dry place.

Do I need to see a doctor regularly?

While you are taking TB medication a monthly visit to a TB clinic is usually required. The purpose of this visit is to:

  • check your weight and general health
  • check for any side effects from the tablets
  • check you are taking the tablets correctly
  • collect another month’s supply of medicine.

Cost of treatment

All medications for tuberculosis treatment are supplied free of charge from the WA Tuberculosis Control Program.

Where do I get help or more information?

  • Anita Clayton Centre (WA Tuberculosis Control Program)
    8.15am – 4.15pm Monday to Friday
    Phone: (08) 9222 8500
  • See your doctor.
  • Visit a GP after hours.
  • Ring healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 (free from land line only).
  • For a medical emergency visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance.


Anita Clayton Centre (WA Tuberculosis Control Program)

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

See also

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