- Last Updated on 05 December 2012
Tuberculosis, or TB, is an infectious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs. It is transmitted from person to person via droplets from the throat and lungs of people with the active respiratory disease.
In healthy people, infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis often causes no symptoms, since the person's immune system acts to “wall off” the bacteria. The symptoms of active TB of the lung are coughing, sometimes with sputum or blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. Tuberculosis is treatable with a six-month course of antibiotics.
If left untreated, a tuberculosis patient can die. TB is a disease of poverty, which, because of insufficient treatment, has emerged in new, virulent strains. Over the last two decades TB resurged worldwide, along with TB co-infections with HIV/AIDS and drug resistant TB. There are 22 countries with a “high-burden” of TB, which means they have 80% of the world’s cases. Today there are an estimated 9 million new cases of TB a year, 10 to 15 percent of whom are children.
The risk of developing tuberculosis (TB) is estimated to be between 20-37 times greater in people living with HIV than among those without HIV infection. In 2010, there were 8.8 million new cases of TB, of which 1.1 million were among people living with HIV.
Factors influencing the spread of the disease:
• Lack of political will
• Badly functioning health systems
• Lack of financial and diagnostic resources
The current treatment for people with TB is to have a six-month treatment, requiring a daily visit to a health centre. Many patients in developing countries still fail to adhere to the entire six month regimen. These treatment failures in individuals have, in turn, contributed to the worldwide spread of resistant forms of TB, which are even more difficult to treat and pose a serious long-term public health threat.
Sources: WHO, CDC