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Tuberculosis -T.B


Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious infectious disease that affects mainly the lungs. It is an infectious disease and spreads from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air through coughs and sneezes. Many strains of tuberculosis are resistant to the drugs most used to treat the disease. People with active tuberculosis are treated with several types of medications for many months to eradicate the infection and prevent development of antibiotic resistance.


The human body harbours the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, but the immune system usually can prevent the body from becoming sick. For this reason a distinction is made between latent TB and active TB.

  • Latent TB : In this condition, an individual will have a TB infection, but the bacteria will remain in the body in an inactive state and cause no symptoms. Latent TB is also called inactive TB and is not contagious. However, latent TB can turn into active TB, so treatment is vital for the person with latent TB to help control the spread of TB. It is estimated that one-third of the world's population has latent TB.
  • Active TB : This condition makes an individual sick and can spread to others. It occurs in the first few weeks after infection with the TB bacteria, or can occur years later.

Symptoms of active TB include:

  • Cough
  • Uncontrolled weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite

Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs. Signs and symptoms of TB of the lungs include:

  • Coughing that lasts three or more weeks with blood or sputum
  • Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing

Tuberculosis can also affect other parts of the body, including brain, spine, or kidneys. When TB occurs outside the lungs, the signs and symptoms vary according to the organs that are affected.


Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that spread from person to person through microscopic droplets that are released into the air. This happens when someone with the untreated, active form of tuberculosis speaks, coughs, spits, or sneezes. Tuberculosis is contagious, but not easy to catch. People with active TB who have been appropriately treated for at least two weeks are no longer contagious.

HIV and TB

Since the spread of HIV in the 1980s, the number of cases of tuberculosis has increased dramatically. Tuberculosis and HIV have a deadly relationship. They drive the progress of each other. The immune system is suppressed by the HIV, making it difficult for the body to control TB bacteria. As a result, it is likely that people with HIV are at a very high risk of getting TB.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risk of TB are:

Weakened immune system : A healthy immune system often successfully fights TB bacteria. On the contrary, the body cannot mount an effective defense if the resistance is low. Below are a number of diseases and medications that can weaken the immune system:

  • Diabetes
  • End-stage kidney disease
  • Certain cancers and cancer treatment such as chemotherapy
  • Drugs that prevent rejection of transplanted organs
  • Drugs used in the treatment of psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn's disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Very young or advanced age

The other factors that pose a risk of contracting TB are:

  • International connections : The risk of TB is higher for people who live in or travel to countries like India, China, and Africa etc.
  • Lack of medical care : Lack of access to the medical care due to poverty.
  • Substance abuse : Immune system becomes weak due to long-term drug or alcohol use and tobacco use making one more vulnerable to tuberculosis.


Tuberculosis can be fatal if untreated as the disease typically affects the lungs. This infection can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream such as:

  • Bones : TB can infect the bones causing spinal pain and joint destruction and in many cases the ribs are also affected.
  • Brain : When TB affects the brain it causes meningitis, a sometimes fatal swelling of the membranes that cover your brain and spinal cord.
  • Liver or kidneys : The functioning of the liver or kidneys is affected by tuberculosis.
  • Heart : Tuberculosis can infect the tissues that surround the heart, leading to inflammation and fluid collections that may interfere with the proper functioning of the heart. Dysfunction of the heart leads to a condition called cardiac tamponade and can prove fatal.