Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that mostly affects the lungs (pulmonary tuberculosis), but it can also affect the nerves, circulation, bones, and joints. It can occur in a 'latent phase' where people are infected but suffer no symptoms. However, with active tuberculosis the symptoms include cough, chest pain, fever, night sweats, weight loss, becoming tired easily, and sometimes people cough up blood. In people who have tuberculosis, it becomes active in about 5% to 10% of people who are HIV negative, and around 50% of people who are HIV positive. Tuberculosis is treated with a combination antibiotic drugs that must be taken for a period of at least six months to ensure success. If left untreated, around half of those with active tuberculosis will die of the disease. This review looked to see whether nutritional supplements might help people to recover better when they were being treated for tuberculosis. The review identified 12 trials involving 3393 people, mostly adults. The trials covered many different nutritional supplements and provided only limited evidence that supplements may help. High energy supplements, multiple micronutrients combined with zinc and zinc combined with vitamin A showed promise. Also the combination of zinc and multiple micronutrients may reduce the number of people with tuberculosis who are also HIV positive who die. There was not enough evidence available to assess fully the effectiveness of any other combination of nutrients. Further trials are needed that are large enough, conducted in areas where tuberculosis is prevalent, and assess the supplements that have shown promise in these initial studies.
Abba, K.; Sudarsanam, T.D.; Grobler, L.; Volmink, J. Nutritional supplements for people being treated for active tuberculosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2008) (Issue 4) Art. No.: CD006086. [DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006086.pub2]