What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs. Compared with other diseases caused by a single infectious agent, tuberculosis is the second biggest killer globally. TB usually affects the lungs, although it can spread to other organs around the body. Doctors make a distinction between two kinds of tuberculosis infection: latent and active.
Latent TB: The bacteria remain in the body in an inactive state. They cause no symptoms and are not contagious, but they can become active.
Active TB: The bacteria do cause symptoms and can be transmitted to others.
About one-third of the world's population is believed to have latent TB. There is a 10 percent chance of latent TB becoming active, but this risk is much higher in people who have compromised immune systems, i.e., people living with HIV or malnutrition, or people who smoke. TB affects all age groups and all parts of the world. However, the disease mostly affects young adults and people living in developing countries.
What are the warning signs?
Feeling sick or weak
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Chills, fever, and night sweats
A severe cough that lasts for 3 weeks or more
TB can also affect other parts of the body. Symptoms will depend on the part it affects.
What are the symptoms?
During a latent stage, TB has no symptoms. When TB is active TB, while TB usually affects the lungs, it can also affect other parts of the body, and the symptoms will vary accordingly. Without treatment, TB can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.
Bones: There may be spinal pain and joint destruction.
Brain: It can lead to meningitis.
Liver and kidneys: It can impair the waste filtration functions and lead to blood in the urine.
Heart: It can impair the heart's ability to pump blood, resulting in cardiac tamponade, a condition that can be fatal.
What are the available diagnoses?
The most common diagnostic test for TB is a skin test where a small injection of PPD tuberculin, an extract of the TB bacterium, is made just below the inside forearm. The injection site should be checked after 2-3 days, and, if a hard, red bump has swollen up to a specific size, then it is likely that TB is present. Unfortunately, the skin test is not 100 percent accurate and has been known to give incorrect positive and negative readings. There are other tests that are available to diagnose TB. Blood tests, chest X-rays, and sputum tests can all be used to test for the presence of TB bacteria and may be used alongside a skin test.
What are the treatments?
The precise type and length of antibiotic treatment depend on a person's age, overall health, potential resistance to drugs, whether the TB is latent or active, and the location of infection (i.e., the lungs, brain, kidneys). People with latent TB may need just one kind of TB antibiotics, whereas people with active TB (particularly MDR-TB) will often require a prescription of multiple drugs.
Antibiotics are usually required to be taken for a relatively long time. The standard length of time for a course of TB antibiotics is about 6 months. TB medication can be toxic to the liver, and although side effects are uncommon, when they do occur, they can be quite serious. Potential side effects should be reported to a doctor and include:
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
It is important for any course of treatment to be completed fully, even if the TB symptoms have gone away. Any bacteria that have survived the treatment could become resistant to the medication that has been prescribed and could lead to developing MDR-TB in the future.
What are the causes?
The Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium causes TB. It is spread through the air when a person with TB (whose lungs are affected) coughs, sneezes, spits, laughs, or talks. TB is contagious, but it is not easy to catch. The chances of catching TB from someone you live or work with are much higher than from a stranger. Most people with active TB who have received appropriate treatment for at least 2 weeks are no longer contagious. Since antibiotics began to be used to fight TB, some strains have become resistant to drugs. Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) arises when an antibiotic fails to kill all of the bacteria, with the surviving bacteria developing resistance to that antibiotic and often others at the same time.
What are the preventions?
If you have active TB, a face mask can help lower the risk of the disease spreading to other people
A few general measures can be taken to prevent the spread of active TB
Avoiding other people by not sleeping in the same room as someone, will help to minimize the risk of germs from reaching anyone else
Wearing a mask, covering the mouth, and ventilating rooms can also limit the spread of bacteria