Tuberculosis: Types, Management and Risk Factors

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Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis that frequently attacks the lungs but can also damage the other parts of the body.

Tuberculosis, also called TB, is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis that spreads to the different parts of the body through the lymph nodes or bloodstream. It frequently attacks the lungs but can also damage the other parts of the body, such as the brain, spine and kidney. Tuberculosis spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It cannot be spread by touching things that have been touched by an infected person or the actual person, sharing food, drinks or toothbrushes, or kissing. Tuberculosis is a potentially serious disease and if left untreated, can be life-threatening.

Types of Tuberculosis

There are two conditions concerning tuberculosis, wherein difference stems from its ability to cause sickness. These TB-related conditions are:

  • Latent tuberculosis infection
    • Bacteria is inhaled and lives in the body of the host but does not cause sickness
    • The immune system of the body fights the bacteria and halts growth à bacteria will stay in the body but will remain inactive until activated
    • Usually asymptomatic
    • Cannot spread TB to other persons
    • Tuberculosis disease
      • Bacteria becomes active and multiplying in the body
      • Causes symptoms to appear
      • Infectious to other persons

Risk Factors for Tuberculosis

There are several ways to getting tuberculosis. Risks are particularly higher in individuals with any of the following conditions:

  • Comprised immune systems such as HIV/ AIDS, diabetes, certain cancers, malnutrition, and very young or advanced age, among others
  • Recent infection with TB bacteria, within the last two years
  • Traveling to countries with high rates of tuberculosis
  • malnutritiion
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Use of tobacco
  • Living or working in overcrowded areas with poor ventilation, such as in prisons, immigration centers, etc.

Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis

Signs and symptoms for tuberculosis will vary based on where the bacteria are growing. The common signs and symptoms are the following:

  • TB in the lungs
    • Cough that lasts for 3 weeks or longer that may be with or without blood
    • Chest pain
    • TB in other parts of the body
      • Fever and chills
      • Sweating at night
      • No appetite
      • Unintentional weight loss
      • Weakness and fatigue

Treatment for Tuberculosis

Treatment will slightly vary for latent tuberculosis and tuberculosis disease. The main purpose of treatment for latent tuberculosis is to stop the bacteria from progressing into its active state. On the other hand, the main purpose of treatment for tuberculosis disease is halting the growth of bacteria:

  • Latent tuberculosis
    • Medications including isoniazid, rifampin and rifapentine
    • Tuberculosis disease
      • Medications including isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol and pyrazinamide for two months
      • Continuation phase for four to seven months to build up immunity

Disclaimer: This article should not be used for medical diagnosis or advice. Seek medical attention when necessary. It is highly suggested to take first aid courses to detect symptoms of serious conditions. Enrol in First Aid Courses to learn how to recognize symptoms and act aptly in cases of potentially serious conditions, such as tuberculosis.


Tuberculosis (TB). (2012). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on October 8, 2013, from

Tuberculosis. (2013). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on October 8, 2013, from


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