Tuberculosis - Health Center


By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

Tuberculosis: Basic Overview

Tuberculosis is a serious ailment and infection which affects your lungs. The bacterium which is responsible for causing Tuberculosis spreads from one person to the other via the tiny droplets containing the disease which are released either through cough or via sneezing.

Though the disease is very rare in the developed countries these days, the scope of infection began to increase in 1985 as an outcome of the HIV infections. HIV is known to weaken the immune system of the affected person. The weakened immune system is not able to fight against the TB bacterium.

In the past couple of years, many drug resistant strains of TB have emerged. People suffering from active tuberculosis are prescribed with a multitude of medications in order to eradicate the scope of infection and also prevent the development of resistance towards antibiotics.

Causes of Tuberculosis:

Bacterium is the major reason for the occurrence of Tuberculosis. These bacteria spread from the infected person to the other via the microscopic droplets which are released into the air when the infected person sneezes or coughs. The infection can also spread when an infected person speaks, spits or laughs.

TB is a highly contagious disease. A person suffering from Tuberculosis can spread the disease to the person who lives or works with them. People suffering from active TB need to take an appropriate drug treatment in order to remove the risk of contagion.

The spread of TB since 1980’s has increased drastically because of the spread of AIDS. HIV – the virus which causes AIDS is known to weaken the immune system drastically, leading to the lowering down of the body’s defence mechanism, making it very difficult for the person to fight against the infection. People suffering from HIV AIDS are at a higher risk of contracting Tuberculosis as compared to the people who are not HIV positive.

In the past couple of years, a new strain of Tuberculosis known as drug resistant TB has emerged. These strains become resistant to the drugs and antibiotics. These bacteria have also developed resistance against drugs such as isoniazid and rifampin.

Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis:

Though the bacteria for Tuberculosis can remain in the body for a long time, the immune system of the body can prevent the infection for a long time. There are two major kinds of Tuberculosis:

  1. Latent Tuberculosis: In this condition, the bacteria can remain inactive for a long time within in the body and shows no symptoms. Latent TB is also known as inactive TB and is not contagious. However, in due time, it can change into active TB which makes it important to seek the treatment for the same. It has been estimated that around 2 billion people around the world suffer from Latent TB.
  2. Active Tuberculosis: This is a serious type of TB which is contagious and can spread from one person to the other. This incubation can occur within the first few weeks of the infection.

The signs and symptoms for TB are as follows:

  •       Coughing which lasts for a period of more than three weeks
  •       Coughing up of blood
  •       Pain in chest while breathing or coughing
  •       Excessive weight loss
  •       Fatigue
  •       Prolonged fever
  •       Sweating during night
  •       Chills and loss of appetite

Tuberculosis can also affect different organs of the body such as Kidneys, spine or even the brain. It is recommended to visit your doctor if you have been suffering from the above mentioned signs and symptoms. The following people suffer from a risk of contracting TB:

  •       People diagnosed with HIV/AIDS
  •       Intravenous drug users
  •       People who come in contact with infected people
  •       Health care workers dealing with people infected with TB

Tests and Diagnosis of Tuberculosis:

A physical examination is one of the primary ways to check a patient for Tuberculosis. During the physical examination, the doctor checks the lymph nodes for swelling and listens to the sounds of lungs for signs of breathing. A simple skin test is one of the most common ways to diagnose the disease.

Blood tests are used to confirm the presence of the bacteria within the bloodstream. This test is also used to determine if a person is suffering from latent or active TB. Quantiferon TB Gold in tube test and T spot is used in order to examine the blood sample of the effected person.

A Chest X ray or a CT scan is used to check for the presence of the TB bacterium. If white spots are detected on the X ray or the doctors are able to check the changes in the lungs, it is a sign of Tuberculosis infection. CT Scans are able to provide detailed images of the chest as compared to the X rays.

Sputum samples can be checked for the presence of the TB Bacteria. These samples can be checked for the presence of the drug resistant strains. The test can help the doctors to choose the best suited treatment option for the disease.

Treatment and Drugs for Tuberculosis

Medications are easily available for the treatment of TB. During the treatment, the patient has to take antibiotics for at least 6-9 months. The total drugs and treatment option for the patient depend on the age, overall health as well as the drug resistance of the person.

The most common drugs used for the treatment of medications are as follows:

  •       Isoniazid
  •       Rifampin
  •       Ethambutol
  •       Pyrazinamide

In case a person is suffering from drug resistant TB, a combination of fluoroquinolones and inject able medications is used. Certain new medications such as Bedaquiline, Delamanid, PA-824, Linezolid and Sutezolid are being tested as an add on therapy against drug resistant strains.

After the initial treatment option, the patient becomes non contagious. Often, this tempts to make the patient stop the treatment. However, it is very important to complete the entire treatment process. Stopping the treatment mid way allows to bacteria to become resistant to the drugs, leading to the disease to become untreatable.

DOT (Directly Observed Therapy) is recommended in order to allow the patient to complete the course of the treatment.

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