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What Is the Treatment for a Latent Infection?

C.B. Fox
C.B. Fox

Proper treatment for a latent infection depends on the type of infection a patient has. In many cases, treatment may be given only when symptoms flare up. Other conditions require long-term treatment to help prevent the infection from becoming symptomatic. Sometimes, even potentially serious diseases may be left untreated but be carefully monitored to ensure that they do not cause problems for the patient. A variety of different viruses, bacteria, and microorganisms can go latent within a patient's body.

In some cases, the treatment for a latent infection will include the long-term use of medications. These drugs are specifically designed to fight the latent infection and to prevent it from becoming symptomatic. This type of treatment is common when a patient has herpes, a viral infection that can be dormant for long periods of time. Though these treatments are not always successful, in some cases they can decrease the frequency or severity of the infection when it does flare up.

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Other types of infections may require aggressive treatment in order to eliminate the possibility of an active infection. Latent tuberculosis is a relatively common condition that is often aggressively treated when it is found. These infections do not always become active, doing so in only 5 to 10 percent of people who contract the infection. This disease can, however, spread easily from person to person, so doctors will attempt to eliminate the latent infection before it has a chance to become active.

Most conditions that have latent phases are treated only intermittently. An infection with human papillomavirus or malaria, for example, will be treated only when the infection leaves its latent phase and becomes symptomatic. Medications may be used to stop the spread of an infection that has become active, or in the case of human papillomavirus, the lesions may be removed to stop them from spreading.

For some patients, treatment for latent infections may be a lifelong process. Not all of these conditions are curable, though their symptoms can often be managed. Other patients may have to treat a latent infection until it has been eliminated. Though it is not always possible to positively determine whether a disease with a latency period has been successfully destroyed, many of them will be killed off completely after a couple of years. Patients should seek the advice of medical professionals when attempting to treat a latent infections, as these conditions can be impossible to evaluate without the use of blood tests.

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