Background: Recommended treatment of childhood tuberculosis is 6 months in duration with at least 3 drugs. We studied a regimen requiring as few as 58 doses, given entirely by directly observed therapy (DOT), under program conditions.
Methods: An observational trial was conducted to determine the effectiveness of a completely DOT 6-month regimen for pulmonary, pleural and lymph node tuberculosis in children with the use of 2 weeks of daily isoniazid, rifampin and pyrazinamide therapy; then 6 weeks of twice weekly isoniazid, rifampin and pyrazinamide therapy; followed by 16 weeks of twice weekly isoniazid and rifampin. All therapy was given by workers from the health department, and patients were followed by the Children's Tuberculosis Clinic in Houston, TX. Patients were evaluated for changes in symptoms, weight, clinical or radiographic findings and adherence to therapy.
Results: Of the 175 evaluable children (159 pulmonary/thoracic node, 4 pleural, 12 cervical lymph node), 81% of children completed treatment in 6 months. Of the 33 patients who received extended treatment, 3 did so because of physician choice, 17 had an inadequate response to initial therapy, 2 had significant adverse reactions to drugs and 16 had poor adherence to the DOT. Only 37% of patients had complete resolution of disease at the end of treatment, but all continued to improve after therapy was stopped. There was only 1 patient who relapsed after 4 years.
Conclusion: This regimen had results comparable with those of 6-month regimens with longer durations of daily therapy. Determining treatment response in pediatric tuberculosis is difficult because of the slow resolution of chest radiograph abnormalities. DOT is an important aspect of treatment but does not solve all problems with treatment adherence.