Tuberculosis – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention.


Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease which in humans is usually caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis). TB is an abbreviation of the word Tuberculosis and is how people often refer to the disease. Bovine TB is a disease caused by similar bacteria called Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis). Bovine TB mainly affects cattle but can also affect humans.

Just a few years ago it was believed that TB was an old disease, and that it was no longer a problem in humans. But now because of such issues as drug resistance and HIV, it has become a major problem again.


On March 24, 1882, Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB). During this time, TB killed one out of every seven people living in the United States and Europe. Dr. Koch’s discovery was the most important step taken toward the control and elimination of this deadly disease.

In 1982, a century after Dr. Koch’s announcement, the first World TB Day was sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD). The event was intended to educate the public about the devastating health and economic consequences of TB, its effect on developing countries, and its continued tragic impact on global health.

Today, World TB Day is commemorated across the globe with activities as diverse as the locations in which they are held. But more can be done to raise awareness about the effects of TB. Among infectious diseases, TB is now the leading killer of adults in the world, with 1.8 million TB-related deaths in 2015. In the United States, the overall number of TB cases increased over the previous year in 2015 after having declined yearly during 1993–2014.

Until TB is eliminated, World TB Day won’t be a celebration. But it is a valuable opportunity to educate the public about the devastation TB can spread and how it can be stopped.


Globally, more than 1 in 3 individuals is infected with TB. According to the WHO, there were 8.8 million incident cases of TB worldwide in 2010, with 1.1 million deaths from TB among HIV-negative persons and an additional 0.35 million deaths from HIV-associated TB. In 2009, almost 10 million children were orphaned as a result of parental deaths caused by TB.

Overall, the WHO noted the following:

  • The absolute number of TB cases has been falling since 2006 (rather than rising slowly, as indicated in previous global reports)
  • TB incidence rates have been falling since 2002 (2 years earlier than previously suggested)
  • Estimates of the number of deaths from TB each year have been revised downwards

The 5 countries with the highest number of incident cases in 2010 were India, China, South Africa, Indonesia, and Pakistan. India alone accounted for an estimated 26% of all TB cases worldwide, and China and India together accounted for 38%.

Types of Tuberculosis

Active TB

Active TB is an illness in which the TB bacteria are rapidly multiplying and invading different organs of the body. The typical symptoms of active TB variably include cough, phlegm, chest pain, weakness, weight loss, fever, chills and sweating at night. A person with active pulmonary TB disease may spread TB to others by airborne transmission of infectious particles coughed into the air.

If you are diagnosed with an active TB disease, be prepared to give a careful, detailed history of every person with whom you have had contact. Since the active form may be contagious, these people will need to be tested, as well.

Multi-drug treatment is employed to treat active TB disease. Depending on state or local public health regulations, you may be asked to take your antibiotics under the supervision of your physician or other healthcare professional. This program is called “Directly Observed Therapy” and is designed to prevent abandonment or erratic treatment, which may result in “failure” with continued risk of transmission or acquired resistance of the bacteria to the medications, including the infamous multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).

Miliary TB

Miliary TB is a rare form of active disease that occurs when TB bacteria find their way into the bloodstream. In this form, the bacteria quickly spread all over the body in tiny nodules and affect multiple organs at once. This form of TB can be rapidly fatal.

Types of TB

Cavitary TB

Cavitary TB involves the upper lobes of the lung. The bacteria cause progressive lung destruction by forming cavities, or enlarged air spaces. This type of TB occurs in reactivation disease. The upper lobes of the lung are affected because they are highly oxygenated (an environment in which M. tuberculosis thrives). Cavitary TB can, rarely, occur soon after primary infection.

Symptoms include productive cough, night sweats, fever, weight loss, and weakness. There may be hemoptysis (coughing up blood). Patients with cavitary TB are highly contagious. Occasionally, disease spreads into the pleural space and causes TB empyema (pus in the pleural fluid).

Latent TB Infection

Latent TB occurs when a person has the TB bacteria within their body, but the bacteria are present in very small numbers. They are kept under control by the body’s immune system and do not cause any symptoms.

People with latent TB do not feel sick and are not infectious. They cannot pass the bacteria on to other people. In addition they will usually have a normal chest x-ray and a negative sputum test. It is often only known that someone has latent TB because they have had a test, such as the TB skin test.

Risk factors of Tuberculosis

You are at risk of TB infection if you are around people with active TB disease who are coughing, which releases bacteria into the air. The risk of infection increases for intravenous drug users, healthcare workers, and people who live or work in a homeless shelter, migrant farm camp, prison or jail, or nursing home.

Most people who are infected with the bacteria that cause TB do not develop active disease. The following factors increase the risk that latent disease will develop into active disease:

  • Infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS and weakens the immune system
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Low body weight
  • Head or neck cancer, leukemia, or Hodgkin’s disease
  • Some medical treatments, including corticosteroids or certain medications used for autoimmune or vasculitic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, which suppress the immune system.
  • Silicosis, a respiratory condition caused by inhaling silica dust.


The Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium causes TB. It is spread through the air when a person with TB (whose lungs are affected) coughs, sneezes, spits, laughs, or talks.

Causes of tuberculosis

TB is contagious, but it is not easy to catch. The chances of catching TB from someone you live or work with are much higher than from a stranger. Most people with active TB who have received appropriate treatment for at least 2 weeks are no longer contagious.

Since antibiotics began to be used to fight TB, some strains have become resistant to drugs. Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) arises when an antibiotic fails to kill all of the bacteria, with the surviving bacteria developing resistance to that antibiotic and often others at the same time.

MDR-TB is treatable and curable only with the use of very specific anti-TB drugs, which are often limited or not readily available. In 2012, around 450,000 people developed MDR-TB.

Symptoms of Tuberculosis

Although tuberculosis (TB) is most frequently associated with symptoms involving the lungs—because the disease most often affects the lungs—it can affect any organ of the body. The disease can cause a variety of symptoms. If you have symptoms, your doctor will want to know when they began.

People with latent TB infection (an infection without active disease) have no symptoms.

The usual symptoms of TB include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in the sputum (phlegm)
  • Loss of energy

The symptoms may be mild and may not seem particularly worrisome to the patient. In other people, the symptoms become chronic and severe.

Other symptoms of active TB disease depend on where in the body the bacteria are growing. If active TB disease is in the lungs (pulmonary TB), the symptoms may include a bad cough, pain in the chest, and coughing up blood. If active TB is outside the lungs (for example, the kidney, spine, brain, or lymph nodes), it is called extrapulmonary TB and has other symptoms, depending on which organs are affected. For example, tuberculosis in the spine may cause back pain or stiffness.

Diagnosis and test

During the physical exam, your doctor will check your lymph nodes for swelling and use a stethoscope to listen carefully to the sounds your lungs make while you breathe.

The most commonly used diagnostic tool for tuberculosis is a simple skin test, though blood tests are becoming more commonplace. A small amount of a substance called PPD tuberculin is injected just below the skin of your inside forearm. You should feel only a slight needle prick.

Within 48 to 72 hours, a health care professional will check your arm for swelling at the injection site. A hard, raised red bump means you’re likely to have TB infection. The size of the bump determines whether the test results are significant.

If your GP suspects you may have TB, they will send you for testing. If you do have TB, it’s best to know as soon as possible. Delaying treatment makes it more likely you may develop long-term health problems and could put people close to you at risk.

Types of TB test

There are a range of tests to show if you have TB, such as a sputum test, a culture test and x-rays.

Chest x-ray

A chest x-ray can show damage in your lungs, but you might need further tests to prove you have TB, such as sputum and culture tests or scans.

Testing sputum

A lab will use a microscope to look at any sputum (phlegm) that you cough up. If there are TB germs in your sputum, you have tuberculosis of the lungs or throat (pulmonary TB). This test also helps doctors to understand how infectious you may be.


If it is thought that you have TB, but not in your lungs or throat, the doctor may take a biopsy to test for TB. This is a small sample of tissue or fluid taken from the area where the TB is thought to be.

Culture test

This test uses your sputum or tissue sample to grow any TB bacteria that may be there. It tells doctors how infectious you are and also whether your TB is resistant to any antibiotics. This helps ensure they put you on a combination of drugs that will cure you. As TB culture grows slowly, it may take up to eight weeks to get some of the results.

Treatment and medications

Treatment for Active TB

If you have this form of the disease, you’ll need to take a number of antibiotics for 6 to 9 months. These four medications are most commonly used to treat it:

  • Ethambutol
  • Isoniazid
  • Pyrazinamide
  • Rifampin

Your doctor may order a test that shows which antibiotics will kill the TB strain. Based on the results, you’ll take three or four medications for 2 months. Afterward, you’ll take two medications for 4 to 7 months.

You’ll probably start to feel better after a few weeks of treatment. But only a doctor can tell you if you’re still contagious. If you’re not, you may be able to go back to your daily routine.

Treatment of latent TB

The treatment of latent TB is considered by many people to be an important part of  TB prevention.

It is not recommended that everyone with latent TB infection (LTBI) should have TB treatment. Rather it is recommended that certain “target” groups should receive treatment. The main “target” groups considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be most at risk from progressing from latent to active TB include people in low TB burden countries:

  • Who have had recent contact with an infectious patient;
  • With silicosis (there is more about TB & mining);
  • Infected with both TB and HIV;
  • Who have been or who are in prison;
  • Who are immigrants to a low burden country from a high burden country;
  • Who are homeless;
  • Who are an illicit drug user;
  • Who have certain clinical conditions, or conditions which compromise their immune system, such as people with diabetes, and people with chronic renal failure.

In high TB burden countries the populations that are most strongly recommended for the treatment of latent TB infection are people living with HIV, and children under five who are household contacts of pulmonary TB cases.

Treatment for miliary TB

  • Antibiotics
  • Corticosteroids
  • Sometimes surgery

Generally, treatment of miliary tuberculosis is similar to thetreatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Antibiotics are given usually given for 6 to 9 months, unless the meninges are affected. Then antibiotics are given for 9 to 12 months.

Corticosteroids may help if the pericardium or meninges are affected.

Tuberculosis bacteria can easily develop resistance to antibiotics, particularly when people do not take the drugs regularly or for as long as they are supposed to.

Surgery is needed for some complications of military tuberculosis.

Prevention of Tuberculosis

If you test positive for latent TB infection, your doctor may advise you to take medications to reduce your risk of developing active tuberculosis. The only type of tuberculosis that is contagious is the active variety, when it affects the lungs. So if you can prevent your latent tuberculosis from becoming active, you won’t transmit tuberculosis to anyone else.

Protect your family and friends

If you have active TB, keep your germs to yourself. It generally takes a few weeks of treatment with TB medications before you’re not contagious anymore. Follow these tips to help keep your friends and family from getting sick:

Stay home. Don’t go to work or school or sleep in a room with other people during the first few weeks of treatment for active tuberculosis.

Ventilate the room. Tuberculosis germs spread more easily in small closed spaces where air doesn’t move. If it’s not too cold outdoors, open the windows and use a fan to blow indoor air outside.

Cover your mouth. Use a tissue to cover your mouth anytime you laugh, sneeze or cough. Put the dirty tissue in a bag, seal it and throw it away.

Wear a mask. Wearing a surgical mask when you’re around other people during the first three weeks of treatment may help lessen the risk of transmission.

Finish your entire course of medication

This is the most important step you can take to protect yourself and others from tuberculosis. When you stop treatment early or skip doses, TB bacteria have a chance to develop mutations that allow them to survive the most potent TB drugs. The resulting drug-resistant strains are much more deadly and difficult to treat.


In countries where tuberculosis is more common, infants often are vaccinated with bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine because it can prevent severe tuberculosis in children. The BCG vaccine isn’t recommended for general use in the United States because it isn’t very effective in adults. Dozens of new TB vaccines are in various stages of development and testing.

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  1. if you had TB and you are totally cured, can you be infected again in case you mistakenly come into contact with TB patients?

    • Yes possibilities are there to reinfect again. re-infection with TB bacteria which causes the disease. reinfection is also largely determined by our body’s immune system.


    pls send a latest PTB Treatment and MDR TB. Thank you.

  3. can smoking be a risk factor for reactivated TB? thanks.

    • Tobacco smoking can alter the lung immune responses to MTB and can therefore contribute to a higher susceptibility to individual TB infection. TB reactivation and mortality rates are also higher in people who are smoking.

  4. William Marial Puol

    management require the completion the duration and good feeding strategic

  5. very beautiful my knowledge

  6. thank you very much for this Awesome Explanation I really appreciate it.

  7. thanks very informative…

  8. if a patient with PTB miss a dose of his treatment for an hour or two,is it OK to take the treatment and continued the treatment again on the previously specified time??will it have any effect on him??

    • If you do miss a dose, take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and call your doctor. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.

  9. pls can isonadil be use as a preventive drug for TB in children less than 5yrs or is it a curative drug. The reason for the question is this. I learnt that two children (2&4 yrs old) were negative of TB but were given isonadil as a prevention for 6 months shld they come in contact with any1 with TB. pls is this true? I need enlightenment on this or is it that the children has TB n they don’t want pple to know. pls am concerned.

  10. Please send symptoms of drug resistant Tb

    • A cough with thick, cloudy mucus (or sputum), sometimes with blood, for more than 2 weeks; fever, chills, and night sweats; fatigue and muscle weakness; weight loss; and in some cases shortness of breath and chest pain. A person with these symptoms does not necessarily have DR-TB, but they should see a physician for diagnosis and a treatment plan.

  11. useful information for me .bt some time is syptom was not same as given

  12. l want to buy medicine at pharmacy for TB, which medicine l can buy it please assist me

  13. I do cough at bedtime or the moment I relaxed, could that be a TB or simply cough, tnx.

    • It might be due to allergic reactions or also due to the climatic change. Even this could be a starting stage of TB and so please consult a doctor as soon as possible to rectify it.

  14. Sunayana Shyam Chauhan

    It’s very appreciateables from u all for us and our children’s to make them understand at home with going on studies about medical science instead these all some new information about new diseases

  15. mdr tb treatment and classification of TB(RNTCP classification

  16. Thank you so much for this. It’s great to have this information so clearly presented and available. I really appreciate it, thanks. 🙂

  17. Treatment of fungs in lung after tb

    • To treat fungus in lungs some of the drugs that are used based on the type of fungus that affected in lungs.
      Aspergillosis- Voriconazole
      Candidiasis- Fluconazole
      Cryptococcosis- Amphotericin and Flucytosine
      Histoplasmosis- Itraconazole and Amphotericin

  18. TB is cause death when you didn’t take action

  19. please explain drugs mechanism and adverse effects and dosage resumen

  20. what and what can tb patient avoid not to eat?

    • Foods that should be avoided in a diet for TB patients are alcohol, fried foods, canned foods, coffee, sugar and sweeteners, white bread and tea.

  21. your recommendation to use tissue to cover while coughing, sneezing etc is correct, but to throw in sealed packet is not advisable. The tissue may be disinfected and burnt to avoid spread of bacteria which may be survive outside in particles.

  22. Donot throw used tissue in sealed plastic bag, the bacteria may survive in phelgma or tissue for longer. The waste handlers are exposed to risk. If bag opens the bacteria will float in dust particles and infect others. It is advisable to disinfect and burn the tissue.Treat is a biomedical waste.

  23. how does the bone Tb developes.

    • Tuberculosis of bone, sometimes it is also known as Extrapulmonary tuberculosis. This usually occurs when the germs of Mycobacterium tuberculosis spread from our lungs (which is always the first site of its infection) to bones like the spine, hip etc. and they usually spread via our bloodstream. Bone Tuberculosis is treated similarly to pulmonary TB, but in some cases, a surgery might be required to treat damaged areas of the bone.

  24. what is bone TB?

    • Tuberculosis of bone, sometimes it is also known as Extrapulmonary tuberculosis. This usually occurs when the germs of Mycobacterium tuberculosis spread from our lungs (which is always the first site of its infection) to bones like the spine, hip etc. and they usually spread via our bloodstream. Bone Tuberculosis is treated similarly to pulmonary TB, but in some cases, a surgery might be required to treat damaged areas of the bone.

  25. Is T.B. a killing disease? please I want to know. Can a victim survive it?

    • yes, it is a killing disease. A TB patient can able to survive, but only when he or she diagnosed early stage itself.

  26. now I have got the real answers for the question I asked.

  27. currently GeneXpert text for diagnosis of TB is faster and reliable this method should be included.

  28. Ronnel K. Alamada

    how to take this medicine (QUADTAB), before meals or after meals?

  29. is there any prevention medication/vaccine available AFTER treatment of TB?

    • If the TB patient is a previously treated patient, they should then receive the retreatment regime 2HREZS/1HREZ/5HRE containing first-line drugs in a similar way to new TB patients. The main difference is the addition of streptomycin to the intensive phase.

  30. Is it normal to have rush after starting the medication?

  31. Is there anything like TB of the Skin

  32. mass was discovered in my lung after taken tb treatments , the mass is causing lots of pain in the left side of the chest,atime the pain connect with back pain. am not comfortable with the mass pain, kindly advise on medication and procedure to get read of the mass, am happy to tell you ct-scan revealed its not cancer.thank you.

  33. very Nice app.please what is the incubation phase of TB

    • The length of TB incubation varies depending on individual risk factors. Within six weeks of being exposed, an infected person develops a primary infection in the lungs, which may have no symptoms. The disease then enters a dormant phase that can last weeks to years.

  34. how do u give the TB treatment in children

    • TB treatment for children consists of an intensive phase followed by a continuation phase. The purpose of the intensive phase is to rapidly eliminate the majority of the TB bacteria, and this phase uses a greater number of TB drugs than the continuation phase whose aim is to eradicate any remaining dormant bacteria.

  35. Can infected/damaged lungs be repaired/become normal after completing treatment of Active TB? Which is the most effective drug to stop /treat cough for someone experiencing it while undergoing TB treatment? Thank you.

  36. For how many weeks should a TB patient have taken medication/drugs before it becomes safe for him/her to sleep in the same room with some one not infected to avoid/reduce risk of transmission? Thank you for making available this informative and educating platform.

  37. Good day, just want to ask if someone who have TB latent can contaminate the people around him.

  38. my father is suffering from TB spondylities. His sputum tests were negative. but mantoux skin test was positive. So, anti tb drugs ware started for my father. Our family members sputum test were also negative. Do our family members need to have mantoux test also?

  39. This is very educative article… thanks a lot! pls am a DOT provider( for TB patients) & of late I have been having pain on my left side beneath my breast & upper abdomen … I can’t tell if it is ulcer pain bcos I do have ulcer or is it something else? am not coughing, or having anyoda symptoms except this pain… pls advice me ,I need to do genexpert test but no sputum…

  40. tested non active any need of taking Winthrop Isoniazid treatment?

  41. This is very detailed. It’s has helped me a lot. Keep it up. Keep on informing people about this deadly disease

  42. Good information. One of my relativel(58 yes) is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis since one month.He is diabetic. He took Forecox 2×2 at empty stomch and Liv 52 (2-2-2) .But he felt uneasy and anorexia with rifampicin.So he was kept on pyrazinamide,INH and ithambutol only. But the patient is not recovered as expected. What should he take for speedy recovery.

  43. good information.

  44. if you miss your TB drugs for 3 days, can it cause any difference in the potency of your medication?

  45. TB is dangerously an airborne infection rendering any body at risk.

  46. Thousands get infected daily with TBI and eliminate TBI completely and freely with no cost to help prevent and eliminate TBI completely.

  47. if the drugs are react on liver every time, I stopped att three times Due to liver side effects

  48. Is there other medicine to use to speed up the treatment of tb

  49. can some who has been treated TB more than once still be infectious to the family?

    • If you or your family members have lung TB which can be spread to others. TB is spread before the sick person has started treatment and some weeks after. The people living in the same household are most at risk to get TB. All who have been infected with TB don’t develop TB illness. Small children, young adults, elderly and people having weak immune system develop more easily TB illness.

  50. I appreciated the your detailed explanation of TB. my question is, someone diagnosed with symptoms of pulmonary tb and had not taken it seriously for two years but now experiencing all the symptoms you enumerated, what is his fate? what should he do?

  51. Dr Anis Shaikh

    lungs are not always the first site of infection in a number of cases lymph nodes around neck or groin are affected a biopsy is needed to conform the diagnosis

  52. Dr Anis Shaikh

    lungs are not always the site of infection but it can affect in a number of cases the lymph node s around neck or groin

  53. good information
    plz send mine witch medicine is good for immunity booster for tubericulas meningities

    • The best antimicrobial agents in the treatment of TBM include isoniazid (INH), rifampin (RIF), pyrazinamide (PZA), and streptomycin (SM), all of which enter cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) readily in the presence of meningeal inflammation.

  54. we r taking all medicine last two year right now i m fine but dr say one tablet is taken continue levespy 500 plz tell me best medicine for incries immunity booster

  55. I’m also one who got TB almost two timer because at first I didn’t not finished 6 months so that it was repeated with vaccine almost 2 months and I take medicine 3 tablets per day

  56. charles s matengu

    pls send other test that can be done to diagnos latent tb

  57. I was a victim of TB and I was put on the medication for 8 month and that was 2017 but the problem is that am coughing and I have difficulty in breathing .

  58. how do I treat this disease, because am having a severe pain now

  59. Kabiru Haruna kassim

    what is the relationship between alcoholism and tuberculosis

  60. am currently taking my TB medication, but am having this heaviness on my right lung, what should I do?

    • Experiencing lung heaviness while on TB medication is concerning. Contact your healthcare provider immediately to report the symptom, as it may require adjustments to your treatment plan or further evaluation. Adhere strictly to prescribed medications and seek emergency care if you experience severe chest pain or difficulty breathing.

  61. Am so excited with great note, it teaches me alot about how to define TB, how classified TB, Knows what are the Risk factors to TB, Knows all Symptoms and signs of TB, How to manage TB patient.

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