Background: The treatment of latent infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis is important in children because of their vulnerability to life-threatening forms of tuberculosis disease. The current standard treatment - 9 months of isoniazid - has been associated with poor adherence and toxic effects, which have hampered the effectiveness of the drug. In adults, treatment with 4 months of rifampin has been shown to be safer and to have higher completion rates than 9 months of isoniazid.
Methods: In this multicenter, open-label trial, we randomly assigned 844 children (<18 years of age) with latent M. tuberculosis infection to receive either 4 months of rifampin or 9 months of isoniazid. The primary outcome was adverse events of grade 1 to 5 that resulted in the permanent discontinuation of a trial drug. Secondary outcomes were treatment adherence, side-effect profile, and efficacy. Independent review panels whose members were unaware of trial-group assignments adjudicated all adverse events and progression to active tuberculosis.
Results: Of the children who underwent randomization, 829 were eligible for inclusion in the modified intention-to-treat analysis. A total of 360 of 422 children (85.3%) in the rifampin group completed per-protocol therapy, as compared with 311 of 407 (76.4%) in the isoniazid group (adjusted difference in the rates of treatment completion, 13.4 percentage points; 95% confidence interval [CI], 7.5 to 19.3). There were no significant between-group differences in the rates of adverse events, with fewer than 5% of the children in the combined groups with grade 1 or 2 adverse events that were deemed to be possibly related to a trial drug. Active tuberculosis, including 1 case with resistance to isoniazid, was diagnosed in 2 children in the isoniazid group during 542 person-years of follow-up, as compared with no cases in the rifampin group during 562 person-years (rate difference, -0.37 cases per 100 person-years; 95% CI, -0.88 to 0.14).
Conclusions: Among children under the age of 18 years, treatment with 4 months of rifampin had similar rates of safety and efficacy but a better rate of adherence than 9 months of treatment with isoniazid. (Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00170209 .).