Tuberculosis at extremes of age

Schaaf H.S. ; Collins A. ; Bekker A. ; Davies P.D.O. (2010)


Although tuberculosis (TB) has its highest burden among young adults, especially since the advent of HIV infection, two other groups with low immunity, the very young (<1 year) with immature immunity and the elderly (>65 years) with waning immunity, are vulnerable groups not to be forgotten. This review describes the epidemiology, clinical aspects, public health aspects and outcome of TB in patients at the extremes of age. The epidemiology differs therein that TB in infants occurs in developing countries with high incidences of TB and HIV, while TB in the elderly occurs in developed countries with ageing populations. The clinical presentation may be non-specific, history of contact with TB is often not known and TB is often not considered at these age extremes, and when the diagnosis is considered, disease progression may already be advanced. Anti-TB treatment regimens are the same as in other age groups, but drug dosages may need adjustment according to weight, renal function, liver function and other potentially complicating factors. Adverse events are more difficult to observe and both the young and the elderly are reliant on others for adherence to treatment. Mortality at both age extremes is higher than in the general TB population. For all the above reasons, public health measures to: prevent transmission of infection; identify those infected and providing preventive therapy; high index of suspicion in order to make an early diagnosis; and timely initiation of treatment are important in both the very young and the elderly. © 2010 The Authors.

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