Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Efficacy of isoniazid prophylactic therapy in prevention of tuberculosis in children: a meta–analysis

James Ayieko14*, Lisa Abuogi2, Brett Simchowitz34, Elizabeth A Bukusi1, Allan H Smith4 and Arthur Reingold4

Author Affiliations

1 FACES (Family AIDS Care and Education Services), Centre for Microbiology Research, Kenya Medical Research Institute-Kisumu, Nairobi City, Kenya

2 Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado, Denver, CO, USA

3 School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, USA

4 School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:91  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-91

Published: 20 February 2014



Children are highly susceptible to tuberculosis; thus, there is need for safe and effective preventive interventions. Our objective was to evaluate the efficacy of isoniazid in prevention of tuberculosis morbidity and mortality in children aged 15 years or younger by performing a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. To our knowledge, this is the first meta-analysis evaluating efficacy of isoniazid prophylaxis in prevention of tuberculosis in children.


A systematic search of the literature was done to identify randomized controlled trials evaluating isoniazid prophylaxis efficacy among children. Each study was evaluated for relevance and validity for inclusion in the analysis. Subgroup analyses were conducted based on study quality, HIV status, tuberculosis endemicity, type of prophylaxis and age of participants.


Eight studies comprising 10,320 participants were included in this analysis. Upon combining data from all eight studies, isoniazid prophylaxis was found to be efficacious in preventing development of tuberculosis, with a pooled RR of 0.65 (95% CI 0.47, 0.89) p = 0.004 , with confidence intervals adjusted for heterogeneity. Among the sub-group analyses conducted, only age of the participants yielded dramatic differences in the summary estimate of efficacy, suggesting that age might be an effect modifier of the efficacy of isoniazid among children, with no effect realised in children initiating isoniazid at four months of age or earlier and an effect being present in older children. Excluding studies in which isoniazid was initiated at four months of age or earlier yielded an even stronger effect (RR = 0.41 (95% CI 0.31, 0.55) p <0.001). Data on the effect of isoniazid on all-cause mortality, excluding studies in which isoniazid was initiated in infants, yielded an imprecise estimate of mortality benefit (RR = 0.58 (95% CI 0.31, 1.09) p = 0.092).


Isoniazid prophylaxis reduces the risk of developing tuberculosis by 59% among children aged 15 years or younger excluding children initiated during early infancy for primary prophylaxis (RR = 0.41, 95% CI 0.31, 0.55 p < 0.001) . However, further studies are needed to assess effects on mortality and to determine prophylaxis effectiveness in very young children and among HIV-infected children.

Tuberculosis; Isoniazid; Prophylaxis; Meta-analysis; Efficacy; Children