WHAT IS TUBERCULOSIS?
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called
Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.
Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection and TB
Latent TB Infection
TB bacteria can live in the body without making you sick. This is called latent TB infection. In most people who breathe in TB
bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the
bacteria to stop them from growing. People with latent TB
infection do not feel sick and do not have any symptoms. They are not infectious and cannot spread TB bacteria to others.
However, if TB bacteria become active in the body and multiply, the person will go from having latent TB infection to being sick with TB disease.
TB bacteria become active if the immune system can't stop them from growing. When TB bacteria are active (multiplying in your body), this is called TB disease. People with TB disease are sick. They may also be able to spread the bacteria to people they spend time with every day.
Many people who have latent TB infection never develop TB
disease. Some people develop TB disease soon after becoming infected (within weeks) before their immune system can fight the TB bacteria. Other people may get sick years later when their immune system becomes weak for another reason.
HOW TB SPREADS?
TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
TB is NOT spread by:
- shaking someone's hand
- sharing food or drink
- touching bed linens or toilet seats
- sharing toothbrushes
Symptoms of TB disease include:
- a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
- pain in the chest
- coughing up blood or sputum
- weakness or fatigue
- weight loss
- no appetite
- sweating at night
TB Risk Factors
Once a person is infected with TB bacteria, the chance of
developing TB disease is higher if the person:
- Has HIV infection;
- Has been recently infected with TB bacteria (in the last 2
- Has other health problems, like diabetes, that make it
hard for the body to fight bacteria;
- Abuses alcohol or uses illegal drugs;
- Was not treated correctly for TB infection in the past
Treatment for Latent TB Infection and TB Disease
Because there are less bacteria in a person with latent TB
infection, treatment is much easier.Four regimens are
approved for the treatment of latent TB infection.
TB disease can be treated by taking several drugs for 6 to 9 months. There are 10 drugs currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating TB.
It is very important that people who have TB disease finish the medicine, taking the drugs exactly as prescribed. If they stop taking the drugs too soon, they can become sick again; if they do not take the drugs correctly, the TB bacteria that are still alive may become resistant to those drugs. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat.