Tuberculosis is a dangerous common infectious disease. It usually affects the lungs, but can affect other organs. Infection kills millions of people every year and is difficult to treat if you seek help late. In this article, we will consider the main symptoms and methods of treating a dangerous disease.


Table of contents:

  1. How does the disease develop?
  2. What are the signs of tuberculosis?
  3. Ways of the spread of infection
  4. How to treat tuberculosis?
  5. Why is tuberculosis difficult to cure?
  6. What is the prevention of the disease?
  7. Useful links

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease. Mycobacterium tuberculosis provokes it. It is not exactly a bacterium, but something between a bacterium and a fungus – mycobacterium. It has the shape of a slightly curved stick. It is very tenacious, does not die even at a temperature of 250 degrees, is not afraid of concentrated acids, alkalis, and alcohol. Best of all, these bacteria multiply in the dark, damp and at a temperature of 30-40 degrees. Ultraviolet rays kill Mycobacterium tuberculosis in 2-3 minutes, bright sunlight in 30 minutes. How long does it live? It can live and reproduce even in the dried sputum of the patient for about three months.

Tuberculosis is still a disease with severe symptoms. More people die from it than from all infectious diseases combined. A feature of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is its slow division. While ordinary microbes and bacteria divide every 20-120 seconds, Koch’s bacillus divides in 14-18 hours. This makes its research very difficult. Specialists are waiting for the results of the experiments for several months. Besides, Koch’s bacillus is covered with a thick shell of fat and wax-like substances. That makes it so tenacious.

How does the disease develop?

how does the disease develop

Pulmonary tuberculosis and extrapulmonary tuberculosis develops in three stages. First of all, a person is infected. Further, in a certain organ, the primary focus of the disease develops, after which the disease progresses, and the person has new symptoms of tuberculosis.

After infection, the pathogen gradually penetrates the lymphatic and blood vessels and spreads throughout the human body. Four to eight weeks after infection, the person already has positive tuberculin tests.

The main feature of tuberculosis infection is the ability to save a pathogen capable of living in the primary focus. It can stay in a viable state for many years, and in some cases until the end of a person’s life. In turn, after a significant decrease in immunity due to several diseases, foci can go into the active stage, and the person shows signs of tuberculosis.

What are the signs of tuberculosis?

The manifestations of the symptoms of tuberculosis directly depend on where exactly mycobacteria are introduced into the body, whether complications take place, and also on other factors. Tuberculosis develops rather slowly, sometimes the disease can last even decades.

Symptoms of tuberculosis do not appear in people who have developed latent tuberculosis. Therefore, they do not spread the disease. In patients with active tuberculosis, the symptoms depend on where the infection develops – in the lungs or other parts of the body. Pulmonary tuberculosis manifests itself gradually in a person and can develop over several weeks and even months. In this case, a person may notice the appearance of several symptoms of the disease, but do not even know about its development. With this form of tuberculosis, one of the main signs of the disease is a cough, in which thick mucus is expectorated, sometimes with blood. This cough lasts more than two weeks. Also, signs of pulmonary tuberculosis are chills and fever in the evenings. A person constantly feels weakened and tired, he loses his appetite, respectively, bodyweight quickly decreases. Besides, the patient is worried about severe shortness of breath and pain in the chest.

Tuberculosis in children and adolescents most often manifests itself in primary form and develops after infection with the bacteria of the tuberculosis organism that has not been infected. In the process of developing tuberculosis, the patient’s lungs are most often affected. At the same time, extrapulmonary forms of the disease appear as a result of hematogenous dissemination of tuberculosis infection from the primary focus. In this case, the patient has mainly symptoms of intoxication. Signs of an inflammatory process of a local nature are much less pronounced. Moreover, the smaller the child’s age, the higher the risk of severe local and generalized forms of the disease.

Tuberculosis can also affect other parts of your body, including your kidneys, spine or brain. When TB occurs outside your lungs, signs, and symptoms vary according to the organs involved [1].

what are the signs of tuberculosis

Ways of the spread of infection

Signs of tuberculosis occur equally often in people of different ages, both in newborns and in elderly patients. The main sources of infection, as a rule, are sick people, as well as meat and milk from animals that are sick with tuberculosis. Most often, tuberculosis is transmitted by airborne droplets. In more rare cases, an alimentary route of transmission is possible. There is also the possibility of transplacental infection when the infection is transmitted to the fetus from a pregnant woman. The factors contributing to the transmission of infection include prolonged contact with a carrier of bacteria, existence in unsatisfactory social conditions, poor nutrition, and malfunctions in the functioning of the immune system. Contagiousness is not high and directly depends on the state of the body’s defenses. Seasonality and frequency do not matter for the spread of tuberculosis.

Most often, certain populations are at risk of contracting tuberculosis. In the first place, carriers of HIV infection and people who suffer from other ailments that weaken human immunity can become infected with tuberculosis. Also, there is a high risk of infection in those who are in close contact with patients with tuberculosis, people who do not undergo a medical examination on time, drug addicts, alcoholics, people without a permanent residence. Citizens visiting countries where there is a high concentration of cases of this disease in an active form also have a risk of infection.

Even though tuberculosis is not accepted as a highly contagious disease, up to fifty percent of people who have close contact with bacterial excretion become infected. However, infection with tuberculosis does not mean that the disease will develop. Tuberculosis is manifested only in 5-15% of cases, in other cases of infection in humans, the formation of non-sterile immunity occurs. Most often, the source of infection cannot be determined. Another feature of tuberculosis in children: the younger the infected child, the higher the risk of developing tuberculosis.

How to treat tuberculosis?

treatment of tuberculosis

Tuberculosis treatment should be comprehensive. These are antibacterial drugs, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and immunotherapy aimed at increasing the body’s resistance (aloe extract, placenta, vitamins). You can not arbitrarily violate the treatment regimen, it is very complex. Medicines prescribed by a doctor are taken until complete healing. If the disease is not treated, then the patient’s body is constantly poisoned by decay products and toxins that bacteria secrete. This leads to the disruption of many internal organs and endocrine glands.

Treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis in adults should be carried out with several drugs and without interruption. As a rule, the scheme uses 4-5 anti-TB drugs, which must be taken every day for six months. The active substances act differently on mycobacteria, and only in the complex, the destruction of mycobacteria is possible. Besides, immunomodulating drugs are prescribed without fail. Respiratory gymnastics and physiotherapy are also needed. Otherwise, mortality can reach up to 50% when active. The second 50% if untreated become a chronic disease. Parents should especially monitor the children so that they take the prescribed antibiotics strictly as prescribed by the doctor. Otherwise, tuberculosis may become chronic [2].

Today, many experts prefer to strengthen the scheme with an additional substance based on fluoroquinolone. Given the growth of drug-resistant types of tuberculosis, treatment is becoming an increasingly complex issue. Therapy includes antibiotics of the second, third and later generations. The effectiveness of such drugs comes after daily intake for 20 months or longer.

Even with four or five component regimens, mycobacteria can be resistant. Then, to eliminate pulmonary tuberculosis, the treatment goes to second-line chemotherapy drugs. Inflammation with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the cure itself can lead to secondary diseases – anemia, hypovitaminosis, leukopenia. Therefore, attention should be paid to a varied diet, especially with significant weight loss. Patients whose history is burdened with drug or alcohol addiction are cleansed of toxins before starting anti-tuberculosis therapy.

An important element of therapy is spa treatment. Discharged air in the mountains facilitates oxygenation of the lungs, thereby reducing the growth and increase in the number of mycobacteria. For the same purposes, hyperbaric oxygenation is used (the use of oxygen in special pressure chambers).

Why is tuberculosis difficult to cure?

Koch’s bacillus has now become much more resistant to antibiotics than before. It quickly adapts to new drugs. When streptomycin appeared, the disease was successfully treated. Then it took the simultaneous use of two antibiotics, then three. Now even when using 4 drugs, 20% of patients have a form that is especially resistant to antibiotics. New drugs have not been developed for more than half a century. This is because the main consumers of these drugs are poor people, which is not very attractive for the pharmaceutical industry market. Therefore, now they are trying to treat tuberculosis with several highly toxic drugs at once. Their cost is very high, and the consequences of use are comparable to the use of chemotherapy in oncology.

What is the prevention of the disease?

Prevention of tuberculosis provides, first of all, protection against infection with an active form of the disease. To do this, it is undesirable for a long time to be in a closed room with people suffering from active tuberculosis. People who are in places of a congestion of patients should wear face masks as prevention of tuberculosis and observe all hygiene rules. The transition of the latent form of the disease into the active one cannot be allowed. Prevention of tuberculosis in children protects against infection. To do this, a regular examination of all who work in children’s institutions should be carried out.

Prevention of tuberculosis in children requires mandatory BCG vaccination, as well as chemoprophylaxis of the disease. Besides, to prevent tuberculosis, mass examinations of the population are carried out using fluorography. Early detection of signs of tuberculosis allows you to start treatment at the initial stages and make it as effective as possible.

It is equally important to take all measures to strengthen the immune system. In this case, a healthy lifestyle, proper and regular nutrition, complete cessation of smoking, drugs, and alcohol abuse are important.

Useful links

[1] Read more facts about tuberculosis by the link https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberculosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351250

[2] Learn more, how to treat tuberculosis in children by the link https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/tuberculosis.html

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