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Tuberculosis – causes, symptoms, diagnostics and treatment

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by infection with the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Gut’s bacillus.


In most cases of TB disease attacks the lungs and lead to alveoli gradually damage which sacs that are found at the end of bronchitis and be responsible for the gas exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide with the blood cells.

TB can infect other areas of the body, such as the throat, bones, intestine, urinary tract, or even the lymph nodes.

Tuberculosis is a very dangerous disease, and if not treated properly, it can lead to the death of the patient.

The bacteria responsible for tuberculosis is known as Koch’s bacillus, after a German doctor and bacteriologist who discovered it in 1882.

What is the cause of tuberculosis?

The main cause of tuberculosis is the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Koch’s bacillus, which is an unencapsulated Gram-positive bacteria .

In most cases, these bacteria spread inside the lungs, after their arrival by droplets from infected people through the mouth or nose.

Fortunately, most people infected with M. tuberculosis bacteria do not show any symptoms and are able to fight that bacterium before it causes any health problems, but in some cases these bacteria are able to overwhelm the immune system and make people sick.

People of all ages are infected with TB, including children, the young and the elderly.

The spread of TB in the world

Despite the great progress in medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, tuberculosis is still a cause of death for people all over the world. Most people die from tuberculosis in all parts of the world, especially in Africa and Asia, and the number of people who die every year is estimated at about two million, Most of them are in developing countries.

The first anti-tuberculosis drug was developed in the 1940s, and this drug, in addition to improving health care and hygiene methods, greatly reduced the number of people with the disease.

But the disease has returned and spread widely since 1980, with the spread of HIV infection and migration from areas where the disease is spread, in addition to the emergence of strains of bacteria resistant to drugs and therapeutic drugs.

Drug-resistant TB bacteria require a group of other medicines that must be taken for several months and possibly more than a year in order to fight them, and the disease cannot be cured until after completing the full course of treatment.

Symptoms of tuberculosis

The most common form of tuberculosis is the pulmonary form, but the disease can affect other parts and organs of the body. A condition in which bacteria spreads and infects other body organs is called extrapulmonary TB.

Symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis

TB disease affects the lungs and causes respiratory symptoms, including dry cough, which is the most common symptom associated with this disease.

Untreated, lung tuberculosis can lead to coughing up blood as blood and sputum come out during coughing. It can also lead to difficulty breathing and other symptoms such as fever, chest pain, sweating, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

Extrapulmonary TB

The bacteria that cause TB can spread throughout the body and travel through the blood and lymph.

The places in the body that are most susceptible to infection with this bacteria are:

  • pleura
  • Lymphatic system
  • Urinary and reproductive system
  • skin
  • Backbones

The most dangerous type of TB is miliary TB, which accounts for 10% of the number of TB cases outside the lung, in which the disease spreads and affects the whole body of the patient.

How does tuberculosis appear

Doctors and scientists believe that about 90% of people who become infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria do not suffer from tuberculosis and are able to resist these bacteria without showing any symptoms and without having to undergo any kind of treatment, but the remaining percentage of cases are infected with tuberculosis and the emergence of symptoms.

It is for this reason that doctors distinguish between what is known as “latent TB” or TB infection and “active TB” or TB disease.

In latent tuberculosis, the bacteria infects the body, remains complete, does not cause symptoms, and is believed to be non-infectious.

Active TB or TB disease is very contagious and dangerous. It can infect others by mere exposure to sneezing or coughing droplets. It also causes symptoms that may involve the lungs or other parts of the body.

Tuberculosis causes unexplained weight loss, high fever, night sweats, chills, loss of appetite, and fatigue quickly. And if the disease persists, some symptoms may appear, including a persistent cough that may last for several weeks, accompanied by drops of blood and chest pain.

The main symptoms of TB are:

  • Persistent cough and bloody cough
  • Anorexia
  • Low body weight
  • Fatigue
  • Fever, especially in the afternoon or evening
  • pain in chest

If TB bacteria can get into the bloodstream, they can travel through the blood to other parts of the body such as the kidneys, lymphatic system, urinary and reproductive system, spine, brain, and skin.

The symptoms that result from the spread of TB bacteria in the body’s organs differ according to the affected organ, for example, TB bacteria that infects the spine causes back pain, while bacteria that infect the kidneys cause bloody urine.

T Throughout the body and in this case it is called miliary tuberculosis.

Risk factors that increase the risk of developing TB disease

Tuberculosis is a common disease that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or social status, but there are some factors that can increase the risk of infection.

The risk of developing tuberculosis increases if a person suffers from any problems that cause a weakened immune system, and thus the ability to resist pathogens, weak immunity can be caused by infection with some diseases such as AIDS, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, kidney failure, or even some treatment. Medicines that suppress immunity.

In addition, the risk of developing TB disease increases in the following cases:

  • Living in a place where people have TB
  • Living in a crowded place
  • Suffering from malnutrition
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Drug Addiction

Tuberculosis is a highly contagious disease and can be easily transmitted from infected people to others. This means that doctors and health care providers are at risk of contracting this disease, therefore, it is advised to take safety measures such as wearing a protective mask and washing hands frequently to reduce infection.

Also, the risk of contracting the disease increases if you travel to places where the disease is widespread, therefore, care must be taken, caution and social distancing if you are in an area where TB is common.

Causes of tuberculosis and methods of infection

We knew that the cause of TB disease is the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis or gut bacillus. These bacteria are easily transmitted from person to person through droplets and saliva droplets from coughing, sneezing, talking or kissing. In rare cases, the disease can pass from the expectant mother to her fetus.

TB bacteria is very sensitive to UV rays, which means that it will die instantly if exposed to sunlight. This means that staying in closed places for a long time can increase the risk of contracting the disease, and therefore, doctors recommend exposing the home, workplace, hospitals and any other site to sunlight in order to reduce the possibility of contracting TB disease.


There is a type of tuberculosis that affects humans and is of animal origin that is transmitted through cows’ milk and its derivatives, the causative agent of this disease is the bacterium Mycobacterium bovine, which is transmitted with the milk of cows infected with mastitis, but the transmission of these bacteria to humans is rare thanks to sterilization and pasteurization processes Milk is exposed to before eating. In addition to improving treatment methods and veterinary medicine to treat affected cows.

General realistic rules

These rules can help prevent the risk of spreading TB:

  • Leading a regular lifestyle and getting enough sleep
  • Refrain from smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs
  • Eat a balanced and varied diet rich in essential nutrients for the body
  • Compliance with personal hygiene rules, especially frequent hand washing
  • Ventilate rooms and indoor spaces frequently and expose them to sunlight as much as possible instead of artificial lighting

Diagnose tuberculosis

If someone is suspected of having TB, they must have a thorough medical examination, and an early diagnosis is always more effective.

In addition, it is necessary to control all persons in contact with the patient in the event that a person has been diagnosed with the disease, in order to ensure that they are not infected or transmitted to others.

The most commonly used diagnostic tool is the Mantoux skin test, in which a small amount of a substance called tuberculin PPD is injected directly under the skin of the forearm.

Within 48 to 72 hours, the doctor will present the injection site and determine if spots have appeared in that area. The spots indicate that a person has TB.

The doctor also evaluates and analyzes the risk factors for TB bacteria infection and by identifying these factors and performing a skin test, this disease is diagnosed more accurately.

The blood test can also be used to diagnose people suspected of having tuberculosis. In these tests, these tests look for antibodies that the immune system generates against the Mt.

If skin and blood tests indicate TB disease, further tests are necessary to confirm the infection, determine the stage or type of infection with active or inactive TB, and assess the ability of the bacteria to resist antibiotics.

A chest X-ray is one of the most common tests that detects the damage or damage to the pulmonary alveoli, and through this imaging, it can search for any bacterial activity in the lungs.

In order to obtain more accurate images and to pinpoint damaged areas, your doctor may use a CT scan instead of an X-ray.

In some cases, a bronchoscopy is necessary where a tube is inserted and tissue samples are taken and analyzed to look for TB bacteria in it.

Assessment of antibiotic resistance of bacteria

If a person is diagnosed with tuberculosis, the next examination that should be performed is to assess the resistance of the bacteria to antibiotics, by sending his sample to special laboratories. These laboratories grow samples in certain culture media, expose them to antibiotics, and evaluate their response to these antibiotics.

The process of evaluating bacterial resistance to antibiotics can be lengthy and may take 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the rate of growth and division of the bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria divide once every 18-24 hours, and this is a very slow division rate if compared to other types of Bacteria that can divide more than once per hour).

In the event that someone is diagnosed with the disease, he should be admitted to a specialized hospital immediately, and there he must be permanently isolated and drug treatment started. The decrease in the amount of bacteria in the sputum after several days of treatment reduces the isolation procedures of the patient, but the treatment must continue until the end, and it is necessary for the person to stay away from others and not to enter into any gathering at work or at school until completely certain recovery

In some cases, the test result is negative, which means that the person is not infected, but this does not mean that he did not receive the infection, as the infection most likely needs a period of 9 to 10 weeks for the first signs of its presence to appear.

Tuberculosis treatment

As with all diseases caused by germs, TB can be treated effectively with antibiotics that kill bacteria.

Drug treatment can last for a long time, as the patient must take antibiotics for at least 6 to 9 months, this period is determined by the doctor according to the age, the patient’s health condition, the severity of the disease, the stage of the disease, and the degree of resistance of the bacteria to antibiotics.

Treating latent TB

TB is completely treated with medicines that kill the inactive bacteria. This helps ensure that the bacteria and disease state do not develop into a very active and dangerous form.

The treatment plan must be adhered to in order to ensure that all bacteria in the body have been eliminated. People with weak immune systems can take about 9 months of treatment.

Treatment for active TB

Initially, people with active TB should be isolated and given a course of antibacterial drugs. These drugs are chosen by the doctor after evaluating the patient’s condition.

Side effects from TB treatment

Because the treatment period is long-term, it is not without side effects, therefore, the patient’s condition must always be evaluated to ensure that he does not suffer from any health problems resulting from the treatment, especially liver problems.

It is also necessary to reduce the use of sedative medications such as paracetamol during the course of treatment, as well as to abstain from alcohol.

Some of the medicines used to treat tuberculosis can make flu symptoms worse, especially fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and body aches.

During the treatment period, the patient should inform his doctor of any symptoms of nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dark urine, yellowing of the skin (jaundice), or high temperatures if these symptoms persist for three days or more. Flatulence or blurred vision should also be reported.

If a TB patient also has AIDS, the drugs used to treat TB can interfere with the action of the medicines used to treat AIDS ( antiretroviral drugs ), reducing the effectiveness of both treatments.

Treatment for antibiotic-resistant TB

If the patient suffers from tuberculosis caused by a bacterium that resists antibiotics, he must undergo special treatment, and this treatment is usually expensive, and it can last for a longer period, ranging from 18 months to two years, and treatment can have effects Sideways more.

Infection with antibiotic-resistant types increases the risk of death as a result of tuberculosis, and even reduces the chances of successful treatment, and sometimes doctors resort to surgery to remove the damaged or damaged parts of the lung.

Treatment success for tuberculosis caused by resistant strains depends on the drug resistance of the bacterial strains, the stage and severity of the disease, and the strength of the patient’s immune system.

The importance of monitoring treatment

Whatever treatment the patient is subjected to, he must continue until the full course of treatment is completed within the prescription prescribed by the doctor. You should never stop taking the medicine or treatment unless the doctor requests it.

Most patients feel better after several weeks of starting treatment for the disease, and this prompts many to stop taking antibiotics, which leads to the disease returning again, and sometimes its severity is greater and may cause the infection to be transmitted to others.

Stopping the treatment before completing the course of treatment puts the health of the patient and others around him in error.

Tuberculosis vaccine

Tuberculosis vaccine is mandatory in most countries of the world, and it is given to children and helps prevent disease.

For more information about the TB vaccine, I recommend that you read the article Tuberculosis (TB vaccine) vaccination.



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