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Testing for Latent Tuberculosis: Questions for the doctor

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Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious health condition that usually affects the lungs. When someone is sick with TB, it’s called active TB or TB disease. Active TB can spread from person to person through the air, like when someone with active TB sneezes or coughs.

Sometimes, people have TB but it doesn’t make them feel sick. This is called latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). People with LTBI may not know they have TB – so they need to get tested.

Talk to your doctor about getting tested for LTBI if you:

  • Were born in or have lived in a country where TB is common – for example, Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, or China
  • Live or have lived in a large group setting – for example, a homeless shelter or a prison
  • Have HIV or another condition that weakens your immune system (the system in the body that fights infection)

If you have LTBI, you can’t pass it on to others by sneezing or coughing. But if LTBI isn’t treated, it can turn into active TB. This could make you very sick, and you could then pass TB on to others.

Remember, LTBI doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms – so the only way to know if you have it is to get tested. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor if you are at risk for LTBI.

What do I ask the doctor?

Visiting the doctor can be stressful. It helps to have questions for the doctor or nurse written down ahead of time. Print this list of questions and take it to your appointment.

  • What puts me at risk for LTBI?
  • Do I need to get tested for LTBI?
  • How often do you recommend I get tested for LTBI?
  • What are the different types of screening tests for LTBI?
  • Which screening test do you recommend? Why?
  • How will I find out my test results?
  • When will I get my test results?
  • If I have LTBI, what will happen next?
  • Can you give me some information about LTBI to take home with me?

Content last updated October 15, 2020

Reviewer Information

This information on tuberculosis was adapted from materials from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Reviewed by:
Quyen Ngo-Metzger, MD, MPH
Scientific Director, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Program
Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Tina Fan, MD, MPH
Medical Officer, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Program
Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

January 2019

For more information about LTBI and TB disease, visit: