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International Global Health Blog

What is Tuberculosis?

International Global Health


What is Tuberculosis?
 
Tuberculosis or TB, as it is commonly called -- is a contagious infection that usually attacks the lungs. It can also spread to other parts of the body, like the brain and spine. A type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes it.
 
There are two types of tuberculosis: Active and Latent. In theactive TB - the bacteria can be transmitted to others and causes symptoms. In the latent TB - the pathogenic bacteria cause no symptoms,it`s not contagious and it remains in the body in an inactive state. It`s not contagious but if the immune system fails to kill the infection, it can spread to the lungs. Have a read below for more details.
 
Symptoms
 
If you have tuberculosis, you may not have any symptoms yet. That`s because the germs that cause this illness can live in your body without making you sick. In fact, most people who get infected with TB are able to fight the germs before they spread. Doctors call this the "latent TB" infection.

But if the germs begin to multiply, you`ll become sick with tuberculosis. Doctors will call this "active TB". Symptoms may include a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer, pain in your chest, coughing up blood or mucus, feeling weak or very tired, sweating at night and having no appetite.
 
Diagnosis
 
To diagnose TB infection you can either have the Mantoux tuberculin skin test (TST) done or the TB blood test.

If you have had a positive skin test, your doctor will order a chest X-ray or CT scan. This may show white spots on your lungs where your immune system has walled off TB bacteria or it may reveal changes in your lungs caused by active tuberculosis.

If your chest X-ray shows signs of TB, your doctor will do the sputum test - the sputum (mucus) that comes up when you cough. The samples are tested for TB bacteria. Sputum samples can also be used to test for drug-resistant strains of TB.
 
Treatment
 
Medications are the cornerstone of tuberculosis treatment. But treating TB takes much longer than treating other types of bacterial infections. When TB bacteria become active (multiplying in the body) and the immune system can`t stop the bacteria from growing, then this will be called TB disease. TB disease will make a person sick and will make the illness contagious.

It is very important that people who have TB disease are treated, and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. If they do not take the drugs correctly, the TB bacteria may become resistant to those drugs, which then becomes more expensive to treat.

Taking several drugs between 6 to 9 months can treat TB disease. The first-line anti-TB agents that form the core of treatment regimens are:
  1. 1. Isoniazid (INH)
  2. 2. Rifampin (RIF)
  3. 3. Ethambutol (EMB)
  4. 4. Pyrazinamide (PZA)
With the proper treatment, TB is almost always curable.
 
Tips :
 
  1. 1. Take all of your medicines as prescribed
  2. 2. Keep all your doctor appointments
  3. 3. Know if you are "at risk"
  4. 4. Wear a mask
  5. 5. Always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze or even laugh
  6. 6. Finish your course of medication
 
References:
  • World Health Organization
  • TB Facts
  • Medscape
  • Web MD
  • NHS Choices
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC )
  • Health Remedy


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