Objective: To examine the effects of corticosteroids used for concomitant disease states in patients with latent or active tuberculosis (TB). The role of corticosteroids in the treatment of extrapulmonary TB is also discussed.
Data sources: A MEDLINE search was conducted for the years 1953-1995. The International Pharmaceutical Abstracts service was also used to conduct an extensive literature review. In addition, relevant articles were cross-referenced to screen for additional information.
Study selection/data extraction: During the literature review, emphasis was placed on human studies and individual case reports.
Data synthesis: The resurgence of TB in this decade has affected many populations, especially immunocompromised patients. These patients may need corticosteroid therapy for various concomitant diseases that might predispose a patient to develop primary TB infection or reactivate latent TB infection. In appropriate patients, prophylaxis with isoniazid is recommended. Corticosteroid therapy may benefit patients with some forms of extrapulmonary TB. After steroid therapy, improved survival and more rapid reduction of tuberculous symptoms have been noted in cases of tuberculous pleurisy, endobronchial TB, tuberculous meningitis, and tuberculous pericarditis. Corticosteroids may also be useful in controlling both fever and hypersensitivity reactions in pulmonary and extrapulmonary TB, although not routinely used for this purpose.
Conclusions: Corticosteroids may play an important role in TB infection by promoting reactivation of latent infection. Corticosteroids may modify symptoms of some forms of extrapulmonary TB, although randomized, placebo-controlled studies are needed before corticosteroids will have a definitive place in the standard therapy of TB.