TB Risk Reduced by 18% From The Flu Shot

Tuberculosis risk among seniors reduced with Influenza vaccination
old man in park

The influenza vaccination may offer a secondary, important benefit for seniors. A new observational study from Taiwan reported that flu shots also protect people against tuberculosis.

This long-term, cohort research found the risk for incident tuberculosis (TB) was 18 percent lower among seniors who were vaccinated against influenza. 

The lower risk of incident TB among vaccinated elderly patients is likely related to activation of T-cell–mediated immunity, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A previous study demonstrated that the activation of CD4+ T cells (Th1) by influenza vaccination leads to the secretion of Th1-type cytokines, which activates macrophage phagocytosis, that may subsequently kill intracellular M. tuberculosis.

Additionally, this study in Taiwan revealed that the influenza vaccination reduced TB incidence for all adults by 11.1 percent.

Tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest diseases, one-third of the world’s population is infected with TB.

Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick.

As a result, two TB-related conditions exist, which can be treated:

  • Latent TB infection - Without treatment, latent TB infection can progress to TB disease.
  • TB disease - If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

It is very important that people who have TB disease are treated, finish the medicine, and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. If they stop taking the drugs too soon, they can become sick again.

TB disease can be treated by taking several drugs for 6 to 9 months.  There are 10 drugs currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating TB, says the CDC.

Of the approved drugs, the first-line anti-TB agents that form the core of treatment regimens are:

  • isoniazid (INH)
  • rifampin (RIF)
  • ethambutol (EMB)
  • pyrazinamide (PZA)

A total of 9,272 TB cases (a rate of 2.9 cases per 100,000 persons) were reported in the United States in 2016. This is a decrease from the number of cases reported in 2015 and the lowest case count on record in the United States, says the CDC.

The authors are grateful for statistical consultation at the Biostatistical Consultation Centre, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan. The authors report no relevant financial disclosures: Yung-Feng Yen, Sheng-Wei Pan, Vincent Yi-Fong Su, Pei-Hung Chuang, Jia-Yih Feng, and Wei-Juin Su.