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What Is Multidrug-Resistant TB (MDR TB)?

When TB patients do not take their medicine as prescribed, the TB bacteria may become resistant to a certain drug. This means that the drug can no longer kill the bacteria.

Drug resistance is more common in people who:

  • have spent time with someone with drug-resistant TB disease
  • do not take their medicine regularly
  • do not take all of their prescribed medicine
  • develop TB disease again, after having taken TB medicine in the past
  • come from areas where drug-resistant TB is common (Russia, former USSR, Southeast Asia, Latin America, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and the Philippines)

Sometimes the bacteria become resistant to more than one drug. This is called multidrug-resistant TB, or MDR TB. This is a very serious problem. People with MDR TB disease must be treated with special drugs. These drugs are not as good as the usual drugs for TB and they may cause more side effects. Also, all patients with MDR TB disease must see a TB expert who can closely observe their treatment to make sure it is working.

People who have spent time with someone sick with MDR TB disease can become infected with TB bacteria that are resistant to several drugs. If they have a positive TB test reaction, they may be given special treatment for their LTBI. This is very important for people who are at high risk of developing MDR TB disease, such as children and HIV-infected people.