Inflammation, or the prolonged resolution of inflammation, contributes to death from tuberculosis. Interest in inflammatory mechanisms and the prospect of beneficial immune modulation as an adjunct to antibacterial therapy has revived and the concept of host directed therapies has been advanced. Such renewed attention has however, overlooked the experience of such therapy with corticosteroids. Areas covered: The authors conducted literature searches and evaluated randomized clinical trials, systematic reviews and current guidelines and summarize these findings. They found evidence of benefit in meningeal and pericardial tuberculosis in HIV-1 uninfected persons, but less so in those HIV-1 coinfected and evidence of harm in the form of opportunist malignancy in those not prescribed antiretroviral therapy. Adjunctive corticosteroids are however of benefit in the treatment and prevention of paradoxical HIV-tuberculosis immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome. Expert commentary: Further high-quality clinical trials and experimental medicine studies are warranted and analysis of materials arising from such studies could illuminate ways to improve corticosteroid efficacy or identify novel pathways for more specific intervention.
Keywords: Tuberculosis; corticosteroid; drug therapy; tuberculous meningitis; tuberculous pericarditis.