What is Tuberculosis?


Tuberculosis refers to the chronic lung disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (TB).

This infection was very common in poorly nourished, overcrowded areas in Asia and Europe. It killed millions of people over the last few centuries.

The bacterium is spread through air born respiratory droplets of an infected person during coughing or sneezing.  Once it has been inhaled the bacterium invades the lungs and slowly multiplies, occasionally spreading from the lungs to infect the lymph glands, bones and joints, kidneys and other parts of the body.

The spread of TB disease is exacerbated by overcrowding and tends to be fostered by poor nutrition.  Infection is more likely to develop in individuals who also have low resistance to infection, poor nutrition, severe illness, or drink alcohol excessively.

TB disease causes fever, weight loss, coughing up blood, night sweats and can spread to bones with osteomyelitis, the brain with meningitis, It is often difficult to diagnose because it is uncommon these days.

The diagnosis of TB requires identifying the bacterium on culture of relevant specimens – sputum, urine, etc.

Treatment of TB requires a prolonged course of multiple antibiotics, lasting at least 6 months or more.

Contract tracings need to be undertaken by public health nurses.