Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria that are spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys, or the spine. In most cases, TB is treatable and curable; however, people with TB can die if they do not get proper treatment. Sometimes drug-resistant TB occurs when bacteria become resistant to the drugs used to treat TB. This means that the drug can no longer kill the TB bacteria.
Drug-resistant TB (DR TB) is spread the same way that drug-susceptible TB is spread. TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
The most important way to prevent the spread of drug-resistant TB is to take all TB drugs exactly as prescribed by the health care provider. No doses should be missed and treatment should not be stopped early. People receiving treatment for TB disease should tell their health care provider if they are having trouble taking the drugs.
Health care providers can help prevent drug-resistant TB by quickly diagnosing cases, following recommended treatment guidelines, monitoring patients’ response to treatment, and making sure therapy is completed.
Another way to prevent getting drug-resistant TB is to avoid exposure to known drug-resistant TB patients in closed or crowded places such as hospitals, prisons, or homeless shelters. People who work in hospitals or health-care settings where TB patients are likely to be seen should consult infection control or occupational health experts.