Saturday 25 Jun 2022

World Tuberculosis day: All you need to know about TB

There are two TB-related conditions that exist, namely latent TB infection (LTB) and TB disease. If the disease is not treated properly, it can be fatal

| MARCH 23, 2022, 11:06 PM IST
World Tuberculosis day: All you need to know about TB

World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is observed on March 24 every year to raise awareness about the world's deadliest infectious killer, TB. This year's theme is "Invest to End TB. Save Lives." The day commemorates the date when, in 1882, Dr Robert Koch announced his discovery regarding Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is the bacillus that causes tuberculosis (TB). 

What is Tuberculosis (TB)?

It is a serious infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs and is caused by a bacterium known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. According to the CDC, the bacteria mainly attacks the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body, including the kidney, spine, and brain. Also, not everyone infected with the bacteria that causes TB becomes sick. Tuberculosis bacteria can spread from person to person via tiny droplets released into the air through coughs and sneezes.

There are two TB-related conditions that exist, namely latent TB infection (LTB) and TB disease. If the disease is not treated properly, it can be fatal.

How TB spreads

The bacteria that cause TB spreads from one person to another. When a person coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, the bacteria of TB enters the air, and when people nearby breathe, it may enter the body and infect the person. It is a myth that TB is spread via shaking someone's hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes, kissing, etc.

When a person breathes in TB bacteria, the bacteria settle into the lungs and begin to grow. And from there, it moves to other parts of the body through blood. Tuberculosis in the lungs or throat can be contagious. That is, it can spread to other people. But TB in other parts of the body, like the kidneys or spine, is mainly non-infectious. Most likely, people with TB disease spread it to people when they spend time with them every day, and these people may be family members, friends, schoolmates, etc.

Tuberculosis symptoms

  • Coughing for three or more weeks

  • Coughing up blood or mucus

  • Pain in Chest, or pain with breathing or coughing

  • Unintentional weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Sweating at night

  • Chills

  • No appetite, etc.

Also, TB disease symptoms in other parts of the body depend upon the area that is affected. And people suffering from latent TB infection do not feel sick or do not have any symptoms, so they cannot spread TB to others.

Risk factors

There are certain factors that can increase the risk including;

  • Weakened immune system


  • Diabetes

  • Severe kidney disease

  • Certain cancers

  • Cancer treatment, like chemotherapy

  • Drugs to prevent rejection of transplanted organs

  • Some drugs that are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and psoriasis

  • Malnutrition or low body weight

  • Very young or advanced age, etc.

Risk of getting infectious increases when a person travels to areas with high tuberculosis rates like; Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Latin America.

Prevention for TB

If people have latent TB infection and are in high-risk groups, then they should take TB medication. Some measures that can be followed that help family and friends avoid getting sick include:

  • Stay home

  • Cover mouth

  • Ventilate the room

  • Put on a face mask

It is important to finish the proper medication. But if a person stops treatment early or skips doses, then it is believed that bacteria from TB may have a chance to develop mutations that will allow them to survive the most potent TB drugs. Therefore, the resulting drug-resistant strains are deadlier and may be difficult to treat.


Tuberculosis vaccination is provided to infants in countries where TB is more common. The vaccine is bacille Calmetter-Guerin (BCG). It is not widely used in the United States but is often given to infants and small children in other countries where TB is common. It is also said that BCG does not always protect people from getting TB.

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