Diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis in children

Lancet Infect Dis. 2003 Oct;3(10):624-32. doi: 10.1016/s1473-3099(03)00771-0.


There has been a recent global resurgence of tuberculosis in both resource-limited and some resource-rich countries. Several factors have contributed to this resurgence, including HIV infection, overcrowding, and immigration. Childhood tuberculosis represents a sentinel event in the community suggesting recent transmission from an infectious adult. The diagnosis of tuberculosis in children is traditionally based on chest radiography, tuberculin skin testing, and mycobacterial staining/culture although these investigations may not always be positive in children with tuberculosis. Newer diagnostic methods, such as PCR and immune-based methods, are increasingly being used although they are not widely available and have a limited role in routine clinical practice. Diagnostic approaches have been developed for use in resource-limited settings; however, these diagnostic methods have not been standardised and few have been validated. Short-course, multidrug treatment has been adopted as standard therapy for adults and children with tuberculosis, with or without directly observed therapy. Compliance is a major determinant of the success of drug treatment. Although uncommon in children, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is also increasing and treatment will often involve longer courses of therapy with second-line antituberculosis drugs. Treatment of latent infection and chemoprophylaxis of young household contacts is also recommended for tuberculosis prevention, although this may not always be carried out, particularly in high incidence areas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimalarials / administration & dosage
  • Child
  • Child Welfare
  • Developing Countries
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Radiography
  • Skin Tests
  • Treatment Refusal
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnostic imaging
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • World Health Organization


  • Antimalarials