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Key Information About Tuberculosis

Updated on November 1, 2021
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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.

"The struggle to end TB is not just a struggle against a single disease. It’s also the struggle to end poverty, inequity, unsafe housing, discrimination and stigma, and to extend social protection and universal health coverage," said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in the WHO's Global Tuberculosis report 2021.


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.

A research study published in 2019 by researchers in both Loma Linda and in the Southeast Asian nation of Laos found that respiratory health and rates of tuberculosis in low-income communities may be severely impacted by controllable external factors like tobacco use.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention people can get a rare type of tuberculosis, called bovine tuberculosis, from deer.

Mycobacterium Tuberculosis

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons | Source


A quarter of the world's population carries a form of tuberculosis that lies dormant without symptoms for a long time, but can break out eventually.

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


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


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.

Docturnal, a healthtech company dedicated to developing solutions for detecting lung-based diseases, has built TimBre, a screening mobile app which diagnoses tuberculosis in patients by recording the sound of their cough.

Chest X-Ray of a TB Patient

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons | Source


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.

Rifapentine, sold under the brand name Priftin, is an oral antibiotic. It is very effective against tuberculosis.

In active tuberculosis it is used together with other antituberculosis medications. In latent tuberculosis it is typically used with isoniazid.

New anti-tuberculosis medicine pretomanid will be a game changer for treating people with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and those who do not tolerate or respond to now available multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) medicines.

Various toxins are generated during the healing process. They need to be flushed out by the kidneys. So tuberculosis patients should drink at least six liters of water daily.

A team of researchers from the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School have found genetic foot prints of tuberculosis bacteria that are resistant to the commonly used anti-tubercular drugs. This could help scientists develop drugs to combat drug resistance in tuberculosis.

— Dr. Ananya Mandal, MD.

Tuberculosis Prevention

Success in producing a product that can provide immunity against tuberculosis came about through the work of two French bacteriologists Albert Calmette and Camile Guerin during 1908-1921. They came out with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin or BCG.

BCG is a live vaccine against this infectious killer disease. It is prepared from a strain of the weakened bovine tuberculosis bacillus, Mycobacterium bovis.

In the 100 years since its first use, the BCG vaccine has not only prevented countless deaths from tuberculosis, but has been widely used to protect against or treat a number of other diseases.

A mainstay on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, it is given to around 100 million children worldwide annually.

The protective effect of the BCG vaccine diminishes over time and is lost by the time children turn 10 or 12.

Do yoga daily. It boosts the immune system.

It is essential that heads of nations worldwide build political will and prioritize efforts to prevent the disease.


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.

“The World Health Organization has aimed at eliminating TB by 2035, and the Indian government has vouched to do this by 2025. If this ambitious plan has to succeed, we should be concentrating on not missing out on any case,” says Dr. Sayed E. Hasnain from Jamia Hamdard University in New Delhi.

Game Changing Tuberculosis Vaccine

A team of researchers, who come from all over the world, revealed a vaccine, which is made up of proteins from bacteria which trigger an immune response, during a global summit on lung health in Hyderabad on October 29 2019.


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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