Beating TB: Symptoms, Causes, Prevalence and Treatment

Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes, bones, and kidneys. TB is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis and is spread through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. 


The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2019, there were 10 million new cases of TB and 1.4 million deaths worldwide. TB is a leading cause of death from an infectious disease and is particularly prevalent in developing countries, with the highest incidence rates found in Africa and Southeast Asia. However, TB can affect anyone, and it is becoming increasingly common in developed countries as well. 


Symptoms of TB include a persistent cough, chest pain, weight loss, and fever. These symptoms can often be mistaken for those of a common cold or flu, which can make it difficult to diagnose. However, if left untreated, TB can lead to serious complications such as lung damage, kidney failure, and death. 


To diagnose TB, a healthcare provider will typically order a chest X-ray, a tuberculosis skin test, or a blood test. A sample of sputum may also be taken for laboratory analysis. The chest X-ray can show if there are any changes in the lungs such as cavities, which are a common sign of TB. The tuberculosis skin test, also known as the Mantoux test, involves injecting a small amount of a substance called PPD under the skin of the forearm. If the person has been infected with TB, a raised, red bump will appear at the site of the injection. A blood test can also be used to detect antibodies to the TB bacteria, indicating that a person has been infected. 


Once TB is diagnosed, treatment typically involves a combination of medications taken for several months. The most commonly used medications for TB include isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol. The exact combination and duration of treatment will depend on the patient’s individual case and the severity of the infection. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotics, even if symptoms improve, to prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria. 


In addition to antibiotics, other treatments may be necessary for people with TB, such as oxygen therapy for those with lung damage. People with TB also need to have adequate nutrition and rest, in addition to emotional and psychological support to help them cope with the stress of the disease. 


To prevent the spread of TB, it is important to practice good respiratory hygiene, such as covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and to seek medical attention if experiencing symptoms. People who have been in close contact with someone with TB should also be tested and treated if necessary. 

In addition, the WHO recommends that all people who are at high risk of contracting TB, such as those living in areas with a high incidence of TB, people living with HIV, and those who have recently spent time in a country where TB is common, should be screened for the disease. 


As a preventative measure, the WHO also recommends that people with latent TB (a form of TB where the person is infected with the bacteria but does not have any symptoms) should be given a treatment called isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT) to prevent the development of active TB. 


Overall, while TB is a serious disease, it is also preventable and treatable with early diagnosis and appropriate care. It is important for people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of TB, to practice good respiratory hygiene, and to seek medical attention if experiencing symptoms. With the right prevention and treatment measures in place, we can work towards reducing the global burden of TB and saving lives. 


About The Author

Dr. Krisca is a highly-educated and skilled physician who has obtained a BS Public Health degree from the University of the Philippines Manila and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the De La Salle Medical Health Sciences Institute. She is a licensed physician and also a Registered Medical Technologist. She has received additional training in Hemodialysis for Non-Nephro Physicians on duty and has completed online courses in related fields like depression in populations from John Hopkins University and positive psychiatry from The University of Sydney. Currently, she is pursuing a Master of International Health in the University of the Philippines. 


Dr. Krisca is known for her outstanding skills and compassionate approach to healthcare that make a positive impact on people’s lives. Through her passion for healthcare, she hopes to make a difference in the world and help people lead healthier, happier lives. 

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