Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. It is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

In many cases, the disease is asymptomatic, meaning that people who are infected exhibit no symptoms because their immune system keeps the bacteria under control. This is known as latent TB. However, in other cases, the disease can become active and lead to serious symptoms. This is known as active TB.

Symptoms of active TB may include a persistent cough lasting more than three weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood, weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills, and loss of appetite.


TB is spread through the air when a person with active TB disease in their lungs coughs, sneezes, talks, or spits. However, it usually takes close, prolonged contact to catch TB from someone else.

TB is a treatable and often curable disease, typically through a course of several different antibiotics taken over a six to nine month period. If not properly treated, TB disease can be fatal.

Worldwide, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause from a single infectious agent (above HIV/AIDS). It is a major health problem in many developing countries.

Causes of Tuberculosis (TB)

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.

The disease is spread from person to person through the air. When an individual with pulmonary TB coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, they propel TB bacteria into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.

Although your body may harbor the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, your immune system usually can prevent you from becoming sick. Thus, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection (LTBI) and active TB disease. In LTBI, the bacteria remain in the body in an inactive state and cause no symptoms.

Various factors can increase your risk of developing the disease. These include a weakened immune system (due to illnesses like HIV/AIDS), diabetes, or certain types of cancer, malnutrition, tobacco use, and substance abuse. Additionally, health care workers or people living in areas where TB is more common, and people who have been in close contact with an affected individual, are at a higher risk.

Risk Factors of Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious infection that often attacks the lungs but can affect other parts of the body as well. It’s caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. While it can affect anyone, certain risk factors increase the likelihood of contracting the disease:

1. HIV/AIDS: Immune system impairment makes it easier for the TB bacteria to take hold and progress to active disease.

2. Contact With Infected People: Being in close contact with someone who has TB increases your risk of exposure. This includes healthcare workers or those living with infected persons, especially in crowded living conditions.

3. Substance Abuse: Usage of certain substances like alcohol or illicit drugs can weaken the immune system making it easier for TB to infect the individual.

4. Chronic Kidney Disease: Same as above, people with reduced immune function are at heightened risk.

5. Malnutrition: Lack of proper nourishment can weaken the immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off TB bacteria.

6. Travel/redidence in high-risk areas: Certain areas including Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Russia, and parts of Latin America and the Caribbean have higher prevalence rates of TB.

7. Age: Infants and the elderly are at greater risk due to a weaker immune system.

8. Medical Conditions: Other conditions such as diabetes, certain types of cancer, and diseases that affect the immune system such as rheumatoid arthritis can also increase one’s risk of TB.

9. Medications: Certain medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis can impair your immune system and increase your risk of TB.

10. Tobacco use: Regular use of tobacco greatly increases the chance of getting TB and dying of it.

In all of these scenarios, the main concern is that a weaker or compromised immune system gives the TB bacteria a chance to overwhelm the body’s defenses and become an active disease.

Remember, even if a person is in a high-risk group, this does not mean they will definitely contract TB. It simply means their risk is higher than average. Regular medical check-ups and healthy lifestyle practices can help reduce the risk.

Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It typically affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. The symptoms of TB can range from mild to severe and can occur gradually over time.

Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of Tuberculosis:

1. Persistent Cough: One of the first and most common symptoms of TB is a constant cough that endures more than three weeks.

2. Coughing up Blood: In severe cases, a TB patient may cough up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs).

3. Chest Pain and Pain During Breathing or Coughing: Patients may feel pain in the chest, specifically a pain in the lungs while breathing or coughing.

4. Fatigue: One may feel tired or weak all the time, even with rest.

5. Fever: Low-grade fever that is persistent.

6. Night Sweats: This is also a common symptom, where the patient experiences excessive sweating during the night.

7. Chills: Experience of unexplained chills or feeling cold.

8. Loss of Appetite: There might be a significant weight loss due to lack of appetite.

9. Swollen Lymph Nodes: The lymph nodes in the neck or other parts of the body may swell.

It’s important to remember that some people might have the infection but not exhibit symptoms (latent TB). In others, TB can be active and contagious (active TB). If you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms, it is recommended to immediately consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosis Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body such as the kidneys, spine, and brain. The bacteria that cause TB are spread from person to person through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.

The disease is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick, so two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection and active TB disease.

In latent TB, you have a TB infection, but the bacteria remain in your body in an inactive state and cause no symptoms. Latent TB doesn’t spread and might turn into active TB, so treatment is important for the person with latent TB and potentially the community.

Active TB disease makes you sick and in most cases can spread to others. Symptoms can include a persistent cough, pain in the chest, coughing up blood, weakness or fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, chills, fever, and night sweats.

Diagnosing TB involves a skin or blood test, followed by imaging tests (like a chest X-ray or a CT scan) to check for abnormalities in the lungs. It can also involve a sputum test to check for TB bacteria in your coughed-up mucus.

Treatment for TB usually involves taking antibiotics for a long period of time, typically six to nine months. Proper compliance with the treatment plan is important to prevent the spread of TB and the development of multi-drug resistant TB. It’s important to know that even if symptoms have stopped, the infection can still remain; so patients must finish the full course of treatment.

Treatment of Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Its treatment involves a regimen of antibiotics, and it’s important for patients to follow the treatment plan thoroughly to prevent the development of drug-resistant strains.

1. Initial Phase: The standard initial treatment for TB in many parts of the world is a combination of four powerful antibiotics for a duration of two months. These typically include Isoniazid, Rifampicin, Pyrazinamide, and Ethambutol. Sometimes, a fifth drug known as Streptomycin may be added. This is to ensure all TB bacteria, including those that might be resistant to one or more drugs, are killed.

2. Continuation Phase: After the initial phase, the continuation phase begins where the patient usually takes Isoniazid and Rifampicin for the next four to seven months. The total treatment period usually spans six to nine months.

Patients must take all prescribed medication, even if symptoms are improving or have subsided before completing the course. Failure to do so could lead to drug-resistant forms of TB, which are more life-threatening and difficult to treat.

Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course (DOTS) is a strategy recommended by the World Health Organization to ensure patients adhere to their treatment regime. DOTS involves healthcare workers or trained volunteers observing patients taking their medication, which can help ensure they complete the course.

In addition, it is essential to regularly monitor the patient’s progress and make any necessary amendments to their treatment plan.

Keep in mind that the details can vary by region and individual case, and it is vital to consult with a healthcare provider.

Medications commonly used for Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is typically treated with a combination of medications to ensure the bacteria are completely eradicated from the body and to prevent development of resistance. The most commonly used drugs in the treatment of TB include:

1. Isoniazid (INH): This is a first-line medication for TB and is often given for 6 to 9 months. It interferes with the production of mycolic acid, which the bacteria need to make their cell walls.

2. Rifampin (RIF): Another first-line drug, it disrupts the TB bacteria’s cell wall synthesis, leading to death of the bacteria. It is typically given for a 6-month period.

3. Pyrazinamide (PZA): This is another first-line therapy that’s active against all populations of TB bacteria. It works best in acidic conditions, like those in certain immune cells where the bacteria may hide.

4. Ethambutol (EMB): This drug interferes with the bacteria’s cell wall synthesis. It’s usually used in the initial phase of treatment if there’s a likelihood of drug resistance.

5. Streptomycin: This is an aminoglycoside antibiotic and is reserved for TB strains that are resistant to other drugs. It works by preventing the bacteria from producing proteins needed for survival.


A person with TB is typically given a combination of these drugs, with the exact regimen and duration of treatment determined by factors such as patient’s health, age, potential drug resistance, whether the TB is latent or active, and the location of infection in the body.

In case of drug-resistant strains, second-line drugs like fluoroquinolones and injectable medications like amikacin may be used.

As TB medications can have side effects, it’s important to take them as directed and complete the entire course of treatment, even if symptoms improve before it’s finished. Patients need to be under medical supervision throughout the process.

Prevention of Tuberculosis (TB)

Preventing tuberculosis (TB) involves several steps. Here they are:

1. TB Vaccination: The Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine can provide some protection against TB. This vaccine isn’t widely used in the U.S., but it’s often given to infants and small children in countries where TB is more common.

2. Preventive Therapy: Individuals who have been exposed to TB bacteria but are not yet sick might be given treatment to prevent the disease from developing. This is especially important for those with a higher risk of illness, such as people living with HIV, those with diabetes, or individuals who have been in close contact with a person who has active TB.

3. Active Case Finding: Identifying active TB cases as early as possible is a crucial aspect of preventing the spread of this disease. The sooner a diagnosis is made and treatment started, the better the chances of preventing transmission.

4. Good Ventilation: As TB spreads through the air, rooms should be well-ventilated, which reduces the chance of the bacteria spreading. This is particularly important in crowded places such as hospitals, hostels, and prisons.

5. Respiratory Hygiene: People with active TB should wear a mask to lower the risk of transmitting the infection to others. They should also be educated about covering the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing.

6. Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and getting adequate sleep can strengthen your immune system, making it less likely that you’ll develop TB if you do come into contact with the bacteria.

7. Regular Screenings: For those who are at a higher risk of TB, regular screenings should be done to ensure early detection and treatment of the disease.

Remember, even with these preventive measures, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider for appropriate advice and testing if you think you may have been exposed to TB or you’re experiencing symptoms associated with it.

FAQ’s about Tuberculosis (TB)

Here are some common frequently asked questions about Tuberculosis (TB).

1. What is Tuberculosis (TB)?
TB is a contagious infection that primarily affects the lungs. It’s caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In some cases, it can affect other parts of the body as well.

2. How does TB spread?
TB spread from person to person through the air. When a person with TB of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, they expel bacteria into the air, which others can inhale.

3. What are the symptoms of TB?
Symptoms include a persistent cough that lasts over three weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood, loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.

4. What’s the difference between active and latent TB?
Active TB means you’re sick and contagious; you may have symptoms and are capable of spreading the disease. Latent TB, on the other hand, means that you’re infected but not sick or contagious, and you show no symptoms.

5. How is TB diagnosed?
TB is usually diagnosed through a skin test or blood test. If the test is positive, further examinations such as chest X-rays and sputum tests will follow to confirm active TB disease.

6. Can TB be cured?
Yes, TB can be cured. Patients are typically given a course of several antibiotics for six to nine months.

7. How can TB be prevented?
There is a vaccine for TB, known as the BCG vaccine, which is often given to children in countries where TB is common. The best way to prevent the spread of TB is to promptly diagnose and successfully treat people with active disease.

8. Can anyone get TB?
Yes, TB can affect anyone, but there are certain risk factors that can increase susceptibility, including poor nutrition, a weakened immune system, diabetes, substance abuse, or close contact with a person with active TB.

9. What is drug-resistant TB?
Drug-resistant TB is the situation in which the TB bacteria are resistant to one or more of the main TB drugs. This can make treatment more difficult, but not impossible.

Please remember to consult a healthcare professional if you think you have been exposed to TB or if you notice any symptoms.

Useful links

Here are some useful links to scholarly journals and articles about Tuberculosis (TB):


Please note that access to some of these articles may require a subscription or purchase.

Complications of Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs, but can also impact other parts of the body. Complications of TB can be severe and may include the following:

1. Pulmonary Complications: These affect the lungs and may include pulmonary TB, the most common form, which can cause a hacking cough that lasts for over three weeks, chest pain, and coughing up blood. Prolonged TB can lead to extensive lung damage causing respiratory failure and difficulties.

2. TB Meningitis: This is the swelling of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It can lead to headaches, mental changes, coma, and even death if not treated immediately.

3. Miliary TB: This is a rare form of active tuberculosis and it’s named this due to the way that tuberculosis bacteria appear to be “millets seeds” (very small seeds) in the chest x-rays of people who have this condition. The bacteria spread throughout the body.

4. Spinal TB or Pott’s disease: This involves a severe pain in the back, often leading to deformity or severe hunchback. It may also result in paralysis.

5. Genitourinary TB: This affects the urinary tract and male or female reproductive systems. It can lead to renal failure if kidneys are affected.

6. Bone/Joint TB: This can lead to painful, swollen joints, and generally affects weight-bearing joints and the spine.

7. TB Pericarditis: This involves swelling of the pericardium, the “sac” around your heart. It can lead to chest pain and difficulty breathing, and if left untreated, heart failure.

8. Liver and Spleen TB: Moderate or severe organ damage can be the result of TB spreading to the liver or spleen.

Further complications can be related to the long-term medication needed to treat TB, leading to side effects such as liver toxicity. However, TB is curable and preventable. With consistent and proper treatment, the vast majority of people with TB can be cured.

Home remedies of Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious bacterial infection that mainly involves the lungs, but can spread to other parts of the body. It is important to note that medical treatment is necessary to cure TB and it usually involves a course of antibiotics for 6 to 9 months.

However, certain home remedies may help alongside the prescribed treatment to manage TB symptoms and improve your overall health. It’s important to understand that these remedies are not replacements for standard medical treatment.

1. Nutritious Diet: Consuming a balanced diet rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can equip your body to fight the tuberculosis bacteria and recover from the disease. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy products in your diet.

2. Adequate Hydration: Drink plenty of fluids such as water, herbal teas, and fresh fruit juices to keep your system hydrated and help thin mucus in the lungs, making it easier to cough up.

3. Regular Exercise: Light exercises like walking or yoga can boost your immunity and keep your body strong, aiding in recovery.

4. Sufficient Rest: Getting plenty of sleep can help your body to recover and fight off the bacteria.

5. Green Tea: Green tea may boost the immune system due to its high antioxidant capacity.

6. Garlic: Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties that might help boost your immune system.

7. Oranges: Oranges have antioxidants and a good amount of vitamin C which improves your immunity. Oranges also help in reducing cough and mucus.

8. Aloe Vera: This has anti-inflammatory properties that can boost immunity and promote recovery.

Remember, while these home remedies may aid in managing symptoms and improving overall health, they are not a cure for TB. TB is a serious disease that requires medical treatment, so anyone suspected of having TB should seek immediate medical attention.

Lastly, and importantly, adherence to the full course of medication as prescribed by the healthcare professional is critical in treating TB fully and avoiding multidrug-resistant TB. This means taking all the medicines exactly as instructed, for as long as instructed, even when the symptoms have disappeared.

Ensure you consult with healthcare professionals before starting any self-treatment for Tuberculosis.

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Last Update: January 13, 2024