Tuberculosis (TB) is a widespread infectious airborne disease caused due to bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacterium affects the respiratory organ lungs and can also spread to other body parts such as kidneys, brain, and spine if medical care is not provided at initial stages. TB can cause two conditions- Latent TB infection, a condition in which inactive TB germs are present in the body but they does not make the person feel sick and TB disease, a condition in which the TB germs are actively spreading and multiplying and damaging the healthy body tissues. If either of the two is left untreated, it can be fatal and even life-threatening.
Tuberculosis can also affect the bones, spine, brain, and lymph glands. This occurs due to the hematogenous spread of the bacterium from other sites, often the lungs. Spine tuberculosis is known as Pott’s disease, and this infection mostly affects the spine thoracic and upper lumbar vertebrae and can lead to cause tuberculous arthritis. A possible effect of this disease is vertebral collapse, spinal deformities, and paraplegia. Physical findings include spinal deformity, neurological defects, back pain night sweats, and many more.
Symptoms of Tuberculosis:
Signs and symptoms of tuberculosis include severe continuous coughing. If the lungs are specifically affected, the most common symptoms are chest pain and coughing with blood or sputum that lasts for three weeks or longer. The other symptoms of tuberculosis include feeling sick, encountering weight loss, loss of appetite, chills, and fever. This disease can show varied symptoms based on one’s severity of condition. If TB disease does develop, it can occur 2-3 months after infection or years later. Early treatment can prevent the development of disease.
Risk Factors of Tuberculosis:
The chances of developing a TB are more in people who have been recently infected with TB bacteria or have a weak immune system. These include people who have emigrated from places with high rates of TB, underwent organ transplantation, infected with HIV or AIDS, alcohol or drug abuse, and suffering from severe kidney disease. About 10-20% of people who do not get initial treatment for Latent TB infection can develop a TB disease at any time later in their life.
Who is most susceptible to get infected with Tuberculosis?
People who are in close contact with TB patients and stay every day near to the infected person are most likely to be getting them the TB germs. These include patient family members, friends, and school mate. People with a weak immune system due to HIV/AIDS or other medical conditions are more susceptible to get a TB disease. People who are not treated in the initial stages of tuberculosis may also end up in progression into an active TB disease.
How do you get tested for Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis infection can be detected by performing skin or blood tests. Blood tests measure the levels of leukocytes and other blood components and help determine if the patient immune system responding to the TB bacteria entered into their bloodstream.
A positive result of the test for TB infection does not give information regarding the patient’s progress to TB disease. Chest X-rays and sputum tests are also performed that help doctors determine if the patient has developed TB disease and its severity.
Culture Test is the gold standard method for diagnosing tuberculosis. It involves detecting bacteria by growing them on different substances. This involves sputum samples taken from the patient with tuberculosis in their lungs or when extrapulmonary tuberculosis is suspected, and then a variety of other clinical samples such as urine can be submitted for examination. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is acid-fast bacilli (AFB) and after an acid wash, the bacteria can retain the color of the stain and can be visualized under the microscope.
Mantoux Tuberculin Skin Test (TST) is done by injecting five international units of tuberculin intradermally on the side of the arm exposed with palm facing up of the forearm in the suspected patients. Mantoux refers to the technique for conducting the test Tuberculin used in the test is known as a purified protein derivative, PPD. Cases with positive TST results need immediate medical follow-up.
With pulmonary TB being the most common form of the disease, the chest radiograph is useful for the diagnosis of TB disease. Chest abnormalities can suggest pulmonary TB disease.
How Tuberculosis is transmitted?
Mycobacterium tuberculosis can travel in the air from a diseased person to a healthy individual. Infected people with laryngeal or pulmonary TB disease can transfer infectious droplets in the air by sneezing, coughing, singing, or shouting.
These infected droplets can stay in the air for several hours and this spread of infection takes place when a healthy person who is nearby the patient inhales the TB bacteria and their lungs get infected. TB that affects other body parts is generally not infectious but still requires treatment and care.
How is Tuberculosis disease treated?
Tuberculosis can be treated by taking certain prescribed drugs for 6 months to a year. If the patient does not have the medications as per the planned course, misses the doses, has it at the wrong time, or the wrong dose then it’s more likely that the TB infection can worsen as the TB bacterium can develop resistance to those drugs. Hence it is very much important to get a regular course of treatment for best results to make the lungs healthy.
Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine dose must be provided to everyone to prevent the occurrence of TB infection in childhood.