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Why Is Tuberculosis Serious Health Diseases

Tuberculosis (TB) is among the top 10 infectious diseases in the world, ranking at the top three spot along with malaria and HIV/AIDS. Tuberculosis causes nearly 2 million deaths every year, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 1 billion people will be infected between 2000 and 2020 if more effective preventive procedures are not adopted.

What is Tuberculosis (TB)?

TB is a systemic bacterial infection most often found in the lungs. It is mainly caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis. Other mycobacteria such as Mycobacterium bovis, Mycobacterium africanum, Mycobacterium canetti, and Mycobacterium microti can also cause tuberculosis, but these species do not usually affect healthy adults. Over one-third of the world's population has been exposed to the TB bacterium, and new infections occur at a rate of one per second. It doesn't necessarily happen that a person infected develops the full-blown disease, so asymptomatic, latent TB infection is most common. However, one in ten latent infections will progress to active TB disease, which, if left untreated, kills more than half of its victims.

TB is generally classified into pulmonary and extra-pulmonary tuberculosis. In pulmonary TB, the bacterial infection is found in the lungs. This is the most reported case of TB infection. This bacterial infection is highly contagious as it is spread through the air droplets. We can get infected just by breathing in air contaminated with droplets from an infected person's cough or sneeze. The primary stage of pulmonary TB is usually asymptomatic. In some cases, the disease becomes active in a matter of weeks after the primary infection. For some, it may lie dormant for a number of years and then re-appear. Reported symptoms include: minor cough and mild fever, fatigue, unintentional weight loss, coughing up blood, night sweating, phlegm-producing cough, wheezing, chest pain, and breathing difficulty. The risk of contracting tuberculosis increases if you are in frequent contact with an infected person, or have poor living conditions.

Extra-pulmonary TB, as the name implies, affects other organs aside from the lungs. This can occur in isolation or may come along as a complication from pulmonary TB. Extrapulmonary TB may also affect the following body parts:

· Lymph nodes

· Pleura (the membrane that protects the lungs)

· Bones

· Kidneys

· Male & female genital tract

· Stomach

· Peritoneum (the membrane lining part of the abdominal cavity)

· Skin

· Brain

Although the bacterial infection is generically transmitted via droplets from the cough of a person with pulmonary TB, it may spread to any organ or body system through our blood. And like pulmonary TB, symptoms rarely appear at the early onset of this condition.


TB treatment uses antibiotics to kills the bacteria. But unlike the generic use of antibiotics, it takes a longer period of usage to completely eliminate the mycobacteria from the body. However, people may develop drug resistant tuberculosis bacteria when given inadequate treatment. For people with latent infections, medications are still used, but this time it is to prevent the disease from further progressing.