The Connection between Weight Gain Patterns and Tuberculosis


Tuberculosis treatment, research has shown, may be related to weight gain among patients

By Caleb Sooknanan



Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious bacterial disease that harms the lungs. One of the most common symptoms of infection among tuberculosis patients is weight loss, with treatments known to incite weight gain and nutritional recovery. Dr. Mimi N. Phan and researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas performed a retrospective cohort study to analyze weight gain patterns among tuberculosis patients. The study was also used to evaluate case characteristics that could possibly predict weight gain patterns.

This study was performed among patients actively being treated for Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Ben Taub General Hospital. The sample patients had undergone treatment between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2014. The study collected data such as demographic information, medical history, body mass index (BMI) information, radiographic imaging, and microbiological data. Weight changes were determined by quantitative measurements and by the percent change in each case.

Only 11.2% of the selected patients gained weight while receiving treatment. Meanwhile, 52.6% of patients at 2 months after the start, and 38.4% by the end of treatment, did not gain significant amounts of weight. Many patients with longer treatment periods also experienced more weight gain, suggesting that patient weight gain is correlated to treatment time. Evidence of greater disease burdens, especially positive microbiological tests and high disease extents, also indicated a greater possibility of weight gain during treatment. According to the study’s results, the patient’s sex did not significantly affect weight gain and appeared more analogous with body composition.

One of this study’s primary limitations was the exclusion of patients with HIV along with tuberculosis, as this may have produced results that were less representative of the tuberculosis patient population. However, less than 6% of Americans with tuberculosis are HIV-positive, so this limitation may not have affected the study as expected. Also, as a retrospective cohort study, it is possible that inadequate caloric intake may have limited weight gain in some patients. More research is needed to evaluate how patient weight gain and tuberculosis treatment are related in populations with limited resources. Increasing our understanding as to why tuberculosis patients experience variable weight gain during treatment can help researchers evaluate weight change patterns in patients with other chronic diseases.



  1. Phan, et al., Predictors and patterns of weight gain during treatment for tuberculosis in the United States of America. International Journal of Infectious Diseases 53, 1-5 (2016). doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2016.09.006
  2. Image retrieved from:

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