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Key Information About Tuberculosis

Updated on July 30, 2019
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Srikanth is passionate about helping people improve their quality of life.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious bacterial disease that affects the lungs. In 2017, 10 million people fell ill with this dangerous illness, and 1.6 million died from it.

Once rare in developed nations, TB infections began increasing in 1985, partly because of the emergence of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV weakens the immune system so it cannot fight the TB pathogens.

Causes

Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium causes tuberculosis. These bacteria are small, slow-growing, aerobic bacilli.

They are distinguished by a complex, lipid-rich cell envelope responsible for their characterization as acid-fast (ie, resistant to decolorization by acid after staining with carbolfuchsin) and their relative resistance to Gram stain.

They spread through the air when an infected person (whose lungs are affected) coughs, sneezes, spits, laughs, or talks.

Mycobacterium Tuberculosis

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Wikimedia Commons | Source

Symptoms

Symptoms of tuberculosis depend on which part of the body is affected. For instance a cough is a common symptom of tuberculosis in the lungs.

Patients with tuberculosis in the lymph nodes will usually have a swollen throat. Aches and pains in the joints could be tuberculosis in the bones.

Constant fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, coughing up blood and night sweats are other known symptoms of this disease.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons | Source

Prognosis

Without treatment, the disease will progress and lead to disability and death. With treatment, the chance of full recovery is very good.

Diagnosis

Tuberculosis skin test is used to find out if a person has TB infection. A small amount of testing fluid is injected just under the skin on the underside of the forearm.

After two days, the person must return to have the skin test read by a health care worker to determine if it is positive or negative.

As pulmonary tuberculosis can present with any radiological appearance, sometimes tuberculoma on CT scan can be misdiagnosed as lung cancer or metastasis.

Chest X-Ray of a TB Patient

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Wikimedia Commons | Source

Treatment

Once a dreaded disease with fatal outcomes, tuberculosis is now much better understood and treated.

Tuberculosis is curable because antibiotics kill M. tuberculosis. The patient has to take them for 6 to 9 months. Rifampin, rifapentine and isoniazid are used to treat this disease.

Prevention

Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is a live vaccine against tuberculosis. It is prepared from a strain of the weakened bovine tuberculosis bacillus, Mycobacterium bovis.

Do yoga daily. It boosts the immune system.

More than 95 percent of tuberculosis deaths occur in low- and middle-income nations. Six countries account for 60 percent of the total.

Increased political will, financial resources and research to develop new ways to treat and prevent tuberculosis will help in ending the epidemic.

Good news is that some nations are working seriously towards eradicating this disease. For instance Prime Minister of India has fixed a target of making the nation tuberculosis-free by 2025 and experts are working hard on this agenda.

Summary

TB kills around 1.6 million people annually.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria spread through the air.

Patients with TB in the lymph nodes will usually have a swollen throat.

If not treated, TB can cause disability.

Rifapentine is used to treat TB.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

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