(Also known as TB)

Identification and Definition

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is an infection that usually attacks the lungs, but it can also attack any part of the body. If Tuberculosis is not treated properly it can become fatal.

Signs and Symptoms

The major symptoms of Tuberculosis are:

  • a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
  • pain in the chest
  • coughing up blood or sputum

Other symptoms are:

  • weakness and fatigue
  • weight loss
  • no appetite
  • chills and fever
  • sweating at night

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The bacillus M. tuberculosis was first identified by microbiologist Robert Koch on March 24, 1882. Infections of Tuberculosis began increasing in the United States around 1985 because of the emergence of HIV. This is because HIV weakens a person's immune system, which in turn prevents a person from fighting the TB germs. Cases of Tuberculosis decreased in the United States in 1993 because of stronger control programs, but it is still a concern today.


Tuberculosis is transmitted through the air from one person to another. Since Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs, the bacteria is spread when a person sneezes, coughs, spits, or even speaks. Then the people who are around the person who has the disease become exposed, breathe in the bacteria and become infected. However, Tuberculosis cannot be spread through sharing food or drink, shaking hands, or kissing.


One complication of Tuberculosis is that there are two conditions of it: Latent TB infection and TB disease. Latent TB infection is when the TB bacteria can live in a body without making a person sick. There are no symptoms when one is infected with this form of TB, and it is not infectious therefore it cannot be spread. However, if the bacteria becomes active then a person can become sick. TB disease on the other hand causes a person to become sick and contract Tuberculosis because the immune system was not strong enough to stop the bacteria from growing. Also, some people do not become sick right away, hence they can become sick years later after contracting TB disease. Around 5-10% of people who have Latent TB infection will develop TB disease at some time of their lives if they do not get treatment for it.

People who have an HIV infection, abused substance, severe kidney disease, a low body weight, or a organ transplant are especially more prone to contracting Tuberculosis because they have a weakened immune system.

Some people who contract Tuberculosis may also suffer from:

  • Spinal pain
  • Joint Damage - tuberculous arthritis which usually affects the hips and knees
  • Swelling of membranes that cover your brain
  • Liver or kidney problems
  • Heart disorders (this is very rare)

Recommended Control Measure

Tuberculosis is one of the world's deadliest diseases, and one third of the world's population is infected with it. Luckily there is a treatment for this disease. For people who have Latent TB infection, they can take medication such as isoniazid (INH), rifampin (RIF), or rifapentine (RPT). It is essential that people get treatment for Latent TB infection because that helps in controlling and eliminating TB in the United States. For people who contracted TB disease, there are ten FDA approved drugs that they can take, but the first-line anti-TB main treatment regimens are isoniazid (INH), rifampin (RIF), ethambutol (EMB), and pyrazinamide (PZA). These drugs should be taken for 6-9 months, or as prescribed, so that people do not become sick again.

In 2014, the United States reported that there were a total of 9,421 cases of Tuberculosis (2.96 cases per 100,000 persons). There is a vaccine available for Tuberculosis called Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), however it is not necessary in the United States because Tuberculosis is not as common in America as it may be in other countries such as Africa. That being said, children who have a negative TB skin test and are exposed to TB should consider getting vaccinated.