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Tuberculosis: Introduction

Tuberculosis is a contagious disease caused by a bacterial infection of the lungs, which can also spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain, kidneys, and bones. Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is contagious and spreads to others when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This shoots droplets contaminated with Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria into the air where they can be breathed in by others.

People who have healthy immune systems can often fight off a tuberculosis infection after breathing in Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. These people have no symptoms and are not sick, because the immune system is able to prevent the bacteria from growing and multiplying. This is called latent tuberculosis. People with latent tuberculosis are not contagious and cannot spread the disease to others. However, anything that stresses the immune system, such as the development of a chronic disease, can allow the bacteria to become active and begin to multiply in the body.

When the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria are able to grow, multiply and spread, this is called active tuberculosis. People who are malnourished, have impaired immune systems, or have chronic diseases are most susceptible to developing active tuberculosis.

People with active tuberculosis can develop symptoms that include a cough that produces blood-tinged phlegm. Complications of untreated active tuberculosis can be serious and even fatal. For additional symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of tuberculosis.

People at risk for developing tuberculosis include anyone who has had close contact with a person with active tuberculosis. Another high risk population includes people who are immigrants from areas of the world that have high rates of tuberculosis. People who have impaired immune systems are also at risk. These include people with HIV/AIDS, diabetes, malnutrition, kidney disease, and people who have had certain treatments that affect the immune system, such as corticosteroid medications and organ transplant.

Making a diagnosis of tuberculosis involves taking a thorough health history, including symptoms, and performing a physical exam. Tests include special blood tests and a tuberculin skin test, which can detect if a person has been infected with the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium or has had a vaccination for tuberculosis. These tests cannot detect if the infection has lead to active tuberculosis. Lesions in the lungs that are due to tuberculosis may also be seen on a chest X-ray.

Confirming a diagnosis of tuberculosis involves testing samples of phlegm for the presence of the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In addition, some medical testing may be done to rule out or confirm other diseases with similar symptoms, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or influenza.

A diagnosis of tuberculosis can be delayed or overlooked because there may be no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can resemble symptoms or other diseases. For more information on misdiagnosis and diseases that can mimic tuberculosis, refer to misdiagnosis oftuberculosis.

Treatment of tuberculosis includes medications. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of tuberculosis. ...more »

Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacteria that usually causes disease in the lung. Many people become symptom-free carriers of the TB bacteria. Although common and deadly in the third world, tuberculosis was almost non-existent in the developed world, but has been making a recent resurgence. Certain drug-resistant strains are emerging and people with immune suppression such as AIDS or poor health are becoming carriers. ...more »

Tuberculosis: Symptoms

People with latent tuberculosis do not have symptoms, are not contagious, and cannot spread the disease to others. However, anything that stresses the immune system, such as the development of a chronic disease or HIV/AIDS, can allow the bacteria to become active and begin to multiply in the body. This is called active tuberculosis.

Symptoms ...more symptoms »

Tuberculosis: Treatments

Treatment of tuberculosis starts with prevention. In countries where tuberculosis is common, vaccination with the BCG vaccine is often recommended. The BCG vaccine is not commonly used in the U.S. Preventing the spread of tuberculosis and other contagious diseases also includes covering the mouth and nose with an elbow or a tissue when sneezing or ...more treatments »

Tuberculosis: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of tuberculosis can be missed or delayed because in latent tuberculosis there are no symptoms. In addition, in active tuberculosis symptoms be vague and similar to symptoms of other diseases. These include upper respiratory infection, cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, and influenza.

In addition, a diagnosis of tuberculosis may be delayed ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Tuberculosis

Treatments for Tuberculosis

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Tuberculosis:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis: Related Patient Stories

Tuberculosis: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Tuberculosis.

Alternative Treatments for Tuberculosis

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Tuberculosis may include:

  • Drosera homeopathic prevention
  • Bacillinum homeopathic prevention and treatment
  • Arsenicum homeopathic remedy
  • Bryonia homeopathic remedy
  • Cinchona homeopathic remedy
  • more treatments »

Types of Tuberculosis

  • Active TB - fully active TB disease
  • Latent TB infections - an inactive form; also just called "TB infection"; about 10 to 15 million people in the United States
  • Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) - newer TB strains that are resistant to many drugs.
  • Miliary tuberculosis - causing multiple abscesses in various body parts.
  • more types...»

Curable Types of Tuberculosis

Possibly curable types of Tuberculosis include:

Rare Types of Tuberculosis:

Rare types of Tuberculosis include:

Diagnostic Tests for Tuberculosis

Test for Tuberculosis in your own home

Click for Tests
  • Chest x-ray
  • TB skin test - also called Mantoux test or purified protein derivative (PPD) test
  • Sputum test for tuberculosis
  • Lung fluid tests for tuberculosis
  • Biopsy
  • more tests...»

Tuberculosis: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Tuberculosis:

Causes of Tuberculosis

More information about causes of Tuberculosis:

Disease Topics Related To Tuberculosis

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Tuberculosis:

Tuberculosis: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Tuberculosis

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria, more »

Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis, when the condition is really a harmless complication of another infection, such as a common more »

Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), more »

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail more »

Tuberculosis: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Tuberculosis

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Tuberculosis:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Tuberculosis, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Tuberculosis: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Tuberculosis: Animations

Prognosis for Tuberculosis

Research about Tuberculosis

Visit our research pages for current research about Tuberculosis treatments.

Clinical Trials for Tuberculosis

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Tuberculosis include:

Prevention of Tuberculosis

Prevention information for Tuberculosis has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Tuberculosis.

Statistics for Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis: Broader Related Topics

Tuberculosis Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Tuberculosis, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID (Excerpt)

Tuberculosis (TB), a chronic bacterial infection, causes more deaths worldwide than any other infectious disease. TB is spread through the air and usually infects the lungs, although other organs are sometimes involved. Some 2 billion people one-third of the world's population are infected with the TB organism, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. (Source: excerpt from Tuberculosis, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID)

Tuberculosis: NWHIC (Excerpt)

TB, or tuberculosis, is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria can attack any part of your body, but they usually attack the lungs. TB disease was once the leading cause of death in the United States. (Source: excerpt from Tuberculosis: NWHIC)

Definitions of Tuberculosis:

A species of gram-positive, aerobic bacteria that produces TUBERCULOSIS in humans, other primates, CATTLE; DOGS; and some other animals which have contact with humans. Growth tends to be in serpentine, cordlike masses in which the bacilli show a parallel orientation. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Infection transmitted by inhalation or ingestion of tubercle bacilli and manifested in fever and small lesions (usually in the lungs but in various other parts of the body in acute stages) - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

Tuberculosis is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This means that Tuberculosis, or a subtype of Tuberculosis, affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.
Source - National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Ophanet, a consortium of European partners, currently defines a condition rare when it affects 1 person per 2,000. They list Tuberculosis as a "rare disease".
Source - Orphanet


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