Cutaneous tuberculosis overview and current treatment regimens

Tuberculosis (Edinb). 2015 Dec;95(6):629-638. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2014 Dec 25.


Tuberculosis is one of the oldest diseases known to humankind and it is currently a worldwide threat with 8-9 million new active disease being reported every year. Among patients with co-infection of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis is ultimately responsible for the most deaths. Cutaneous tuberculosis (CTB) is uncommon, comprising 1-1.5% of all extra-pulmonary tuberculosis manifestations, which manifests only in 8.4-13.7% of all tuberculosis cases. A more accurate classification of CTB includes inoculation tuberculosis, tuberculosis from an endogenous source and haematogenous tuberculosis. There is furthermore a definite distinction between true CTB caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and CTB caused by atypical mycobacterium species. The lesions caused by mycobacterium species vary from small papules (e.g. primary inoculation tuberculosis) and warty lesions (e.g. tuberculosis verrucosa cutis) to massive ulcers (e.g. Buruli ulcer) and plaques (e.g. lupus vulgaris) that can be highly deformative. Treatment options for CTB are currently limited to conventional oral therapy and occasional surgical intervention in cases that require it. True CTB is treated with a combination of rifampicin, ethambutol, pyrazinamide, isoniazid and streptomycin that is tailored to individual needs. Atypical mycobacterium infections are mostly resistant to anti-tuberculous drugs and only respond to certain antibiotics. As in the case of pulmonary TB, various and relatively wide-ranging treatment regimens are available, although patient compliance is poor. The development of multi-drug and extremely drug-resistant strains has also threatened treatment outcomes. To date, no topical therapy for CTB has been identified and although conventional therapy has mostly shown positive results, there is a lack of other treatment regimens.

Keywords: Classification; Cutaneous; Dermal; Treatment; Tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antitubercular Agents / adverse effects
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis, Cutaneous / classification
  • Tuberculosis, Cutaneous / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Cutaneous / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis, Cutaneous / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Cutaneous / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / classification
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / microbiology


  • Antitubercular Agents