Tuberculosis: Definition, Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


According to the World Health Organization tuberculosis has been around for a long time and is still a major health problem today. The WHO is doing a big job in the fight against the disease. So in this article, we’ll look at what tuberculosis is, and how the WHO can stop it.

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is a sickness caused by a tiny germ called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It mostly hurts the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. People with TB can spread the germs when they cough, sneeze or talk and other people can breathe in these germs. TB is a global problem, and it causes a lot of sickness and death every year, especially in places with not much healthcare.

What are the Types of Tuberculosis?

The TB infection doesn’t always mean you’ll get sick. And there are several stages and forms of the disease, Here’s are some types of tuberculosis:

  • Primary TB
  • Latent TB
  • Active TB
  • Active TB outside the lung

What are the Symptoms of Tuberculosis?

When tuberculosis (TB) germs survive and multiply in the lungs, it’s called a TB infection. Because TB infection may be in one of three stages. Symptoms are Different in each stage.

Primary TB Infection:

The first stage is called the primary infection. But immune system cells find and capture the germs. The immune system may completely destroy the germs. But some captured germs may still survive and multiply. Most people don’t have symptoms during a primary infection. Some people may get flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • Low fever
  • Cough
  • Tiredness

Latent TB Infection:

Primary infection is usually followed by the stage called latent TB infection. Immune system cells build the wall around lung tissue with TB germs. The germs can’t do any more harm if the immune system keeps them under control. But the germs survive. There are no symptoms during latent TB infection.

Active TB Disease:

Active TB disease happens when the immune system can’t control an infection. Germs cause disease throughout the lungs or other parts of the body. Active TB disease may happen right after primary infection. But it usually happens after months or years of latent TB infection. Symptoms of active TB disease in the lungs usually begin gradually and worsen over a few weeks. They may include:

  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood or mucus
  • Chest pain
  • Pain with breathing or coughing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Tiredness
  • Not feeling well in general

Active TB Disease outside the Lungs:

TB infection can spread from the lungs to other parts of the body. This is called extra pulmonary tuberculosis. Symptoms vary depending on what part of the body is infected. So common symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Tiredness
  • Not feeling well
  • Pain near the site of infection

Active TB disease in the voice box is outside the lungs but it has symptoms more like disease in the lungs. So common site of active TB disease outside the lungs include:

  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord
  • Heart muscles
  • Genitals
  • Lymph nodes
  • Bones and joints
  • Skin
  • Walls of blood vessels
  • Voice box also called larynx

Active TB Disease in Children:

Symptoms of active TB disease in children vary. Typically, symptoms by age may include the following:


1-2 year old and young children may have a fever that won’t go away and weight loss.


The baby doesn’t grow or gain weight as expected. And also a baby may have symptoms from swelling in the fluid around the brain or spinal cord, including:

  • Being sluggish or not active
  • Unusually fussy
  • Vomiting
  • Poor feeding
  • Bulging soft spot on the head
  • Poor reflexes

What are the Causes of Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. People with TB disease in the lung or voice box can spread the disease. People that can lead to such drug-resistant strains of bacteria include the following:

  • People don’t follow directions for taking the drugs or stop taking the drugs.
  • They weren’t prescribed the right treatment plan.
  • Drugs were not available.
  • The drugs were of poor quality.
  • The body didn’t absorb the drugs as expected.

What are the Risk Factors of Tuberculosis?

Anyone can get tuberculosis, but certain factors increase the risk of getting an infection. Other factors increase the risk of an infection becoming active TB disease.

Risk of TB Infection:

Certain living or working conditions make it easier for the disease to pass from one person to another. These conditions increase the risk of getting a TB infection:

  • Living with someone with active TB disease.
  • Living or traveling in a country where TB is common, including several countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.
  • Living or working in places where people live close together, such as prisons, nursing homes, and shelters for homeless people.
  • Living in a community identified as being at high risk of tuberculosis.
  • Working in health care and treating people with a high risk of TB.

Risk of Active TB Disease:

So some condition or treatments that weaken the immune system include:

  • Diabetes
  • Severe kidney disease
  • Cancer of the head, neck, or blood
  • Malnutrition or low body weight
  • Cancer treatment, such as a chemotherapy
  • Drugs to prevent rejection of transplanted organs
  • Long term use of perception steroids
  • Use of unlawful injected drugs
  • Misuse of alcohol
  • Smoking and using other tobacco products

Age and Active TB Disease:

The risk of TB infection becoming active but TB disease changes with age.

  • Under 5 year of age
  • Age 15 to 25
  • Age 65 and older


For more people with HIV, doctors see TB as an opportunistic infection. This means someone with HIV is more likely to get TB and have worse symptoms compared to someone with a healthy immune system. Treating TB in someone with HIV can be complicated but a doctor can create a plan that treats both problems.


Using tobacco and being around secondhand smoke can raise the chances of getting TB. They also make it together to treat and more likely for TB to come back after treatment. Stopping smoking and staying away from it can lower the risk of getting TB.

Other Conditions:

Some other health condition that weaken a person’s immune system and can increase the risk of developing TB include:

Certain medical treatments, like organ transplant, can weaken the immune system. Living in a country where TB is common can also raise the risk of getting it. People can check the prevalence of TB in different countries using this tool.

What is the Diagnosis of Tuberculosis?

The diagnosis the tuberculosis (TB) infection your health care provider will do an exam that includes:

  • TB tests
  • Skin tests
  • TB blood tests
  • X-rays
  • Sputum tests
  • Other lab tests

What is the Treatment of Tuberculosis?

If you have a TB infection, you might need to take only one or two types of drugs. So TB disease requires taking several drugs. So common medications used to treat tuberculosis include:

  • Isoniazid
  • Rifampin
  • Rifabutin
  • Rifapentine
  • Pyrazinamide
  • Ethambutol

These specific medications can impact your liver, so individuals taking TB medications should be mindful of symptoms of liver injury, such as:

  • Appetite loss
  • Dark urine
  • Fever lasting longer than 3 days
  • Unexplained nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin
  • Abdominal pain

If you experience any of these symptoms, notify your doctor right away. They will usually monitor your liver with frequent blood tests while you are taking these medications.

Is There a TB Vaccine?

A vaccine for TB known as the bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, is mainly used in countries where TB is common. This vaccine is more effective in children than in adults. In the United States, the BCG vaccine is not widely used because the risk of TB is low. Additionally, the vaccine can affect TB skin tests and lead to a false-positive result. However, experts in the U.S. typically do not recommend the BCG vaccine for most people unless they are at high risk of TB. This is because the risk of TB infection is low in the country, and the vaccine can interfere with future TB skin tests.

What are the Complications of Tuberculosis?

Without treatment, tuberculosis (TB) can result in fatalities. If the infection spreads through the body, it can cause complications affecting the cardiovascular system and metabolic function, among other problems. TB can also lead to sepsis, a severe and potentially life-threatening form of infection.

What is the Prevention of Tuberculosis?

During the first 2 to 3 weeks, you will be able to pass TB bacteria to others. So protect other with these following steps:

  • Stay home
  • Isolate at home
  • Ventilate the room
  • Wearing the face mask
  • Cover your mouth
  • Vaccinations

What is the Role of the World Health Organization in Tuberculosis?

The WHO is part of the United Nations and is leading the fight against TB. The World Health Organization main job is to guide the world in public health, and TB is one of its top concerns. The World Health Organization has a big plan to deal with TB called the ‘‘End TB Strategy ’’. Because of this plan to get rid of TB as a big health problem and reduce the number of TB deaths all around the world.

  • Finding TB early
  • Giving treatment to everyone
  • Caring for patients
  • Stopping TB from spread
  • Research and new ideas

What to Know About Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

Pulmonary tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that can spread through the air between people. When it affects the lungs, it’s called pulmonary tuberculosis. Symptoms may include chest pain, severe coughing and other signs. TB bacteria primarily grow in the lungs but can also infect other body parts. TB is an advanced form where the bacteria spread through the bloodstream to affect organs beyond the lungs. Now we’ll discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of pulmonary TB, and when to seek medical attention.

What are the Symptoms of Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

Symptoms of pulmonary TB can emerge gradually and may differ. The primary symptoms of pulmonary TB are:

  • A persistent cough lasting at least 3 weeks
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood or phlegm from the lungs
  • Shortness of breath

General symptoms of pulmonary TB include:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Night sweats

People with latent TB don’t experience any symptoms or feel unwell.

What are the Causes of Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

TB is caused by bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis). Around one-third of the global population carries this bacteria, but only 10-20% of them develop active TB. People who have bacteria but don’t show symptoms have “latent TB”. It’s not contagious, but it can turn into active TB, especially if the immune system weakens due to conditions like HIV. Active TB occurs when the immune system fails to stop the bacteria from multiplying. However, many with latent TB never get active disease. Doctors can test for M. tuberculosis using a skin or blood test. People with active pulmonary TB release the bacteria in tiny droplets when they cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can be inhaled by others, but prolonged close contact is usually needed for transmission. TB infections outside the lungs are typically not contagious. A pulmonary TB vaccine called bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) exists, but it’s not widely used in the US due to low TB rates. However, doctors may recommend it for high-risk groups like children or healthcare workers.

What is the Treatment of Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

Treatment depends on whether someone has active or latent TB. For latent TB, doctors usually recommend preventive therapy, typically involving a daily antibiotic called isoniazid for 6-9 months. People with active TB typically need a combination of antibiotics for 6-12 months. Common options include isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide. While some with active TB might need a brief hospital stay, many can be treated at home. Most people start feeling better and become non-contagious after a few weeks of treatment. However, it’s crucial to complete the full treatment course as directed by the doctor to prevent recurrence and drug resistance. Drug-resistant TB is harder to treat and can be dangerous if spread to others.


What is the organization for tuberculosis?

The TB Elimination Alliance brings together community-based organizations across the United States to increase knowledge, testing and treatment of TB and latent TB infections among communities at increased risk.

What is the national organization for tuberculosis?

The national organization of tuberculosis is National Tuberculosis Controllers Association. The NTCA was created in 1995 to bring together the leaders of tuberculosis control programs in all states and territories, as well as many countries and city health departments that organize their own TB control activities.

Who is the founder of  TB?

Johann Schonlein coined the term tuberculosis in 1834 though it is estimated that Mycobacterium tuberculosis may have been around as long as 3 million years.

What organization is working on TB?

TB Alliance is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the discovery, development and delivery of better, faster-acting and affordable tuberculosis drugs that are available to those who need them. So we envision a world where no one dies of tuberculosis.

Who is the CEO of TB Alliance?

DR. Spigelman is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development ( TB Alliance) and a Member of its Board of Directors.

IS there A vaccine for TB?

Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB) disease. So this vaccine is not widely used in the United States.

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