Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis that mostly affects the lungs and other parts of the body. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. Tuberculosis is infectious and spreads through the air when people with active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze.

According to WHO, tuberculosis (TB) is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the world. One-third of the world’s population is thought to be infected with TB, with six countries accounting for 60% of the total. India has the leading count, followed by Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.


Types of TB

There are two types of TB conditions:

  1. Latent TB infection – This is when the TB bacteria lives in the body without making you sick.
  2. TB disease – This is when the TB bacteria become active in the body and multiply, the person will go from having latent TB infection to being sick


Symptoms of TB

  • A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
  • Pain in the chest
  • Coughing up blood or sputum (mucus from deep inside the lungs)
  • Constant Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Unexplainable Sweat at night


How can you get infected with TB?

Individuals with medical conditions that weaken the immune system and those who have recently infected with TB bacteria are mostly at risk of TB infection. A person can also be at risk from the following:

  1. When you have spend time with a person with TB disease
  2. If you are from a country or being to places where TB disease is very common
  3. When you work or live in an environment where TB disease is common.
  4. A health-care worker working with clients or patients who are at increased risk for TB disease
  5. Those with HIV infection
  6. A child younger than the age of 5
  7. Cigarette smoking, alcoholism or use of drugs
  8. Incomplete or incorrect treatment for latent TB infection or TB disease in the past


Other possible complications that may arise as a result of TB infection

  • TB infections can affect the bones causing spinal pain and joint destruction.
  • Infections from TB affect the brain, which can cause
  • Waste filtration functions of the liver and kidneys may be impaired as a result of TB infection on the liver and kidneys leading to blood in the urine.
  • The heart’s ability to pump blood can be altered leading to cardiac tamponade (a fatal condition) if infected with TB.

Prevention of TB

  • screening those at high risk
  • Early detection and appropriate treatment of active cases.
  • Vaccinationwith the bacillus Calmette-Guérin
  • Avoid prolonged, frequent, or close contact with people with TB
  • Extensive health education of the masses on TB
  • Wearing a mask, covering the mouth and ventilating rooms can limit the spread of bacteria.
  • Finish entire courses of medication when they are prescribed.


Test/Diagnosis of TB

The TB skin test (TST) and TB blood tests, are two kinds of tests that are used to detect TB bacteria in the body, and only tells that a person has been infected with TB bacteria ( does not tell whether the person has latent TB infection (LTBI) or has progressed to TB disease).

Other tests are also carried to see the type of TB an individual has, using a chest x-ray and a sample of sputum looked at under a microscope. The rapid test Xpert MTB/RIF® was recommended by WHO in 2010. This test is now used as the initial diagnostic test in all persons with signs and symptoms of TB as it simultaneously detects TB and resistance to rifampicin, the most important TB medicine. Diagnosis with this test can be made within 2 hours.

Four new diagnostic tests were recommended by WHO In 2016, this include ; a rapid molecular test to detect TB at peripheral health centres where Xpert MTB/RIF cannot be used, and 3 tests to detect resistance to first- and second-line TB medicines.

TB is difficult to diagnose in children which is why the Xpert MTB/RIF assay should generally be available to assist with the diagnosis of paediatric TB.


Treatment of TB

TB can be treated and cured if medicines are provided and taken properly. The precise type and length of antibiotic treatment of TB depends on a person’s age, overall health, potential resistance to drugs, whether the TB is latent or active, and the location of infection (such as the lungs, brain, kidneys).

Active case of drug-susceptible TB disease can be treated within a standard six month course of four antimicrobial drugs that are provided by a health worker or trained volunteer including information, supervision and support to the patient. Through this support, treatment can be adhered to and spread of the disease can be reduced.


Article by: eDokita Team.



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