Published on March 14, 2013 at 1:06 PM
As the trials took place over 57 years, the anti-TB combination drug regimens also varied. Rifampicin - the most effective and now most widely used anti-TB drug - was not involved in any of the 19 trials held before 1983. All but one of the trials involving pulmonary TB were held pre-rifampicin. However, the researchers did not observe any difference in death rates of patients taking steroids between current and older treatments.
Lead author Professor Julia Critchley from St George's, University of London said: "There has been debate among clinicians on whether steroids should be routinely prescribed for TB patients. At the moment they're used in a specific way to target certain organ systems, and they have been proven effective in treating the meningitis and pericarditis forms of TB, but our findings suggest that the effects in one organ system might well apply to the others in terms of an overall reduction in deaths from the disease. There could therefore be benefit in using steroids for all tuberculosis."
But Professor Critchley added: "The quality and amount of evidence we had for each type of TB varied, and most of the trials took place before the emergence of drugs resistant to anti-TB therapies, so we need to do further studies to build up a more comprehensive and up-to-date picture."
Fiona Young, a research associate in public health from Newcastle University who contributed to the study, said: "The efficacy of steroid treatment for all forms of tuberculosis suggests there is an effect on death for TB of all types, although numbers were small.
"Tuberculosis presents a major public health challenge and it's important that we determine the effects of steroids in an era where drug resistance and HIV impact upon tuberculosis treatment outcomes."
Source: University of London