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Easy guide to understanding tuberculosis

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Easy guide to understanding tuberculosis

Pulmonology | by Dr. Raja Dhar | Published on 26/05/2021


The universal impact of tuberculosis is extensive, with countless cases being reported every year. In history, TB has led to an ineradicable mark on medicine that is referred to as consumption because of its slow wasting effects on the human body. Even after significant advancements in healthcare, TB drug-resistant strains causes rising distress and plea for continued research and progress of new treatment options. As per WHO analysis, it targets to eradicate tuberculosis as a public health concern by the 2030s.

Tuberculosis is one of humankind’s ancient and most obstinate foes. It not only affects the lungs but also targets other body parts. This airborne illness spreads through the inhalation of infected droplets. Efforts require to control tuberculosis involve enhanced diagnosis, accessing quality healthcare services, and public health initiatives. It is important to be mindful of this stubborn disease, raise awareness, and support initiatives striving to eliminate this historical plague.

In this blog, we are going to explore and spread information that’s related to tuberculosis. Please note that this information is only research-based and doesn’t interfere with the doctor’s consultation. If you suspect tuberculosis symptoms, then make sure to book your appointment with The Calcutta Medical Research Institute’s most experienced healthcare professionals having years of expertise in their respective fields.

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is a communicable infection that primarily affects the lungs, however, it can also affect other body parts. In certain cases, the patient doesn’t experience major symptoms. It happens because not every infected individual feels sick which means that the patient has latent tuberculosis. When the patient is experiencing symptoms, it is an indication of tuberculosis, and unfortunately, it can be life-threatening.

Tuberculosis is not transmissible like flu or cold, but it spreads easily. 

When an individual with active tuberculosis sneezes or coughs, he/she is expelling droplets of bacteria into the air. If these droplets are inhaled by an uninfected person, then he/she is exposed to this illness. According to healthcare professionals, it doesn’t occur immediately and can only infect the person if the infected person is in contact for long hours. Usually, TB easily spreads between family members because of the proximity within the same house.

What are tuberculosis symptoms?

Usually, people who have latent tuberculosis don’t exhibit symptoms, however, they are recommended for a skin reaction test or blood test. People who have active TB usually experience the following tuberculosis symptoms: 

  • Severe cough that lasts for more than two weeks 
  • Heavy chest pain that doesn’t go away easily 
  • Sputum or coughing up blood 
  • Chills 
  • Fever 
  • Sudden weight loss 
  • Fatigue 
  • Weakness 
  • Sweating in the night

What are tuberculosis's causes?

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. There are several tuberculosis strains and some of them are resistant to medication. Tuberculosis bacteria are transmissible through the droplets in the air. After the droplets are in the air, it is inhaled by people who aren’t affected. People with tuberculosis can transmit the bacteria by sneezing, coughing, speaking, and singing.

People who have strong immune systems might not experience any tuberculosis symptoms, even after contracting the bacteria. It is referred to as latent or inactive tuberculosis infection. Latent tuberculosis is not transmissible but can become an active illness with time, active tuberculosis can cause sickness and anyone can easily get infected.

How is tuberculosis diagnosed?

Two kinds of screen tests are there for tuberculosis diagnosis which are the Mantoux tuberculin skin test (TST) and the blood test known as interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA). A healthcare expert will involve injecting a small substance amount for TST that is referred to as a purified protein derivative under the forearm skin. After three days, it is recommended that you should visit the healthcare provider so that he can examine the injection area. A healthcare professional for IGRA will begin by drawing blood and sending the sample to a lab. Other tests will help in determining if an infection is active or infected the lungs. Here are these tests: 

  • Computed tomography scans 
  • Chest X-ray 
  • Lab tests on lung fluid and sputum

What are the options for tuberculosis treatment?

Usually, bacterial infections go away on their own after a week or with antibiotics treatment. However, TB is quite different from other bacterial infections. People who have active tuberculosis illness often need to ensure taking a combination of medicines for a period of six to nine months. If the full tuberculosis treatment is not complete, then there is a high probability that the infection might come back. If it comes back, then it becomes difficult to treat because a returning infection has the efficiency to resist earlier medicines. 

The doctor might recommend the use of medications as some tuberculosis strains are resistant to some types of drugs. The most used combination of medications to treat active tuberculosis includes isoniazid, ethambutol (Myambutol), pyrazinamide, rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane), and rifapentine (Priftin). These medications might affect the liver, hence it is important to be aware of symptoms linked to liver injury such as:

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Dark urine 
  • Fever that lasts for more than three days 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Jaundice 
  • Severe abdominal pain 

It is suggested to contact the doctor promptly if any of these symptoms are observed. The doctor will check the life with certain blood tests while the patient is on recommended medicines.


Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is used in most nations having a high frequency of tuberculosis cases. This vaccination works best for children than adults. However, this vaccination is not recommended usually as it can intervene with tuberculosis skin tests and might lead to a false positive result. 


Tuberculosis is a transmissible infection that can become life-threatening if not treated on time. But the good news is it can be treated and cured, hence it is always a better idea to begin the treatment at the earliest. If you think you are exposed to the infection or are at a high risk of infection due to some medical condition, then contact your doctor as they can offer you more guidance for further steps that you need to take. You can book your appointment with The Calcutta Medical Research Institute in Kolkata. It is one of the best multispeciality hospitals integrated with experienced and highly-skilled healthcare professionals. You will get the best diagnosis and suitable treatment options as per your healthcare requirements.



Is tuberculosis contagious?

Yes, tuberculosis infection is contagious as it is an air-borne disease.

How is tuberculosis transmitted?

Tuberculosis infection is transmissible from an infected through sneezing, coughing, and speaking.