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definitions - Tuberculosis

tuberculosis (n.)

1.involving the lungs with progressive wasting of the body

2.infection transmitted by inhalation or ingestion of tubercle bacilli and manifested in fever and small lesions (usually in the lungs but in various other parts of the body in acute stages)

Tuberculosis (n.)

1.(MeSH)Any of the infectious diseases of man and other animals caused by species of MYCOBACTERIUM.

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Merriam Webster

TuberculosisTu*ber`cu*lo"sis (?), n. [NL. See Tubercle.] (Med.) A constitutional disease caused by infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (also called the Tubercle bacillus), characterized by the production of tubercles in the internal organs, and especially in the lungs, where it constitutes the most common variety of pulmonary phthisis (consumption). The Mycobacteria are slow-growing and without cell walls, and are thus not affected by the beta-lactam antibiotics; treatment is difficult, usually requiring simultaneous administration of multiple antibiotics to effect a cure. Prior to availability of antibiotic treatment, the cure required extensive rest, for which special sanatoriums were constructed.

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definition (more)

definition of Wikipedia

synonyms - Tuberculosis

see also - Tuberculosis


-Acute miliary tuberculosis of a single specified site • Acute miliary tuberculosis of multiple sites • Acute miliary tuberculosis, unspecified • Bone Tuberculosis • Cardiovascular Tuberculosis • Congenital tuberculosis • Gastrointestinal Tuberculosis • Iridocyclitis in tuberculosis • Joint Tuberculosis • Male Genital Tuberculosis • Mediastinal tuberculosis NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Mediastinal tuberculosis confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Miliary tuberculosis • Miliary tuberculosis, unspecified • Mycobacterium tuberculosis • Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv • Nasopharyngeal tuberculosis NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Nasopharyngeal tuberculosis confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Ocular Tuberculosis • Other miliary tuberculosis • Other tuberculosis of nervous system • Otitis media in tuberculosis • Pulmonary Tuberculosis • Respiratory tuberculosis NOS • Respiratory tuberculosis unspecified, confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Respiratory tuberculosis unspecified, without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation • Respiratory tuberculosis, bacteriologically and histologically confirmed • Respiratory tuberculosis, not confirmed bacteriologically or histologically • Sequelae of tuberculosis • Sequelae of tuberculosis NOS • Sequelae of tuberculosis of bones and joints • Sequelae of tuberculosis of other organs • Skin Tuberculosis • Tuberculosis (of) anus and rectum • Tuberculosis (of) intestine (large)(small) • Tuberculosis (of) retroperitoneal (lymph nodes) • Tuberculosis Meningitis • Tuberculosis NOS • Tuberculosis Societies • Tuberculosis Vaccines • Tuberculosis complicating pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium • Tuberculosis of adrenal glands • Tuberculosis of bladder • Tuberculosis of bone • Tuberculosis of bone | ankle and foot • Tuberculosis of bone | forearm • Tuberculosis of bone | hand • Tuberculosis of bone | lower leg • Tuberculosis of bone | multiple sites • Tuberculosis of bone | other • Tuberculosis of bone | pelvic region and thigh • Tuberculosis of bone | shoulder region • Tuberculosis of bone | site unspecified • Tuberculosis of bone | upper arm • Tuberculosis of bones and joints • Tuberculosis of brain • Tuberculosis of bronchus NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Tuberculosis of bronchus confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of cervix • Tuberculosis of ear • Tuberculosis of endocardium • Tuberculosis of epididymis • Tuberculosis of eye • Tuberculosis of genitourinary system • Tuberculosis of glottis NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Tuberculosis of glottis confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of hip • Tuberculosis of intestines, peritoneum and mesenteric glands • Tuberculosis of intrathoracic lymph nodes, confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of intrathoracic lymph nodes, without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation • Tuberculosis of kidney • Tuberculosis of knee • Tuberculosis of larynx NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Tuberculosis of larynx confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of larynx, trachea and bronchus, confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of larynx, trachea and bronchus, without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation • Tuberculosis of lung • Tuberculosis of lung, bacteriological and histological examination not done • Tuberculosis of lung, bacteriologically and histologically negative • Tuberculosis of lung, confirmed by culture only • Tuberculosis of lung, confirmed by sputum microscopy with or without culture • Tuberculosis of lung, confirmed by unspecified means • Tuberculosis of lung, confirmed histologically • Tuberculosis of lung, without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation • Tuberculosis of lymph nodes hilar NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Tuberculosis of lymph nodes hilar confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of lymph nodes intrathoracic NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Tuberculosis of lymph nodes mediastinal NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Tuberculosis of lymph nodes mediastinal confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of lymph nodes tracheobronchial NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Tuberculosis of lymph nodes tracheobronchial confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of male genital organs • Tuberculosis of meninges (cerebral)(spinal) • Tuberculosis of myocardium • Tuberculosis of nervous system • Tuberculosis of nervous system, unspecified • Tuberculosis of nose NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Tuberculosis of nose confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of oesophagus • Tuberculosis of other organs • Tuberculosis of other specified organs • Tuberculosis of pericardium • Tuberculosis of pleura • Tuberculosis of pleura confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of seminal vesicle • Tuberculosis of sinus [any nasal] NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Tuberculosis of sinus [any nasal] confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of skin and subcutaneous tissue • Tuberculosis of spinal cord • Tuberculosis of spine • Tuberculosis of spine | cervical region • Tuberculosis of spine | cervicothoracic region • Tuberculosis of spine | lumbar region • Tuberculosis of spine | lumbosacral region • Tuberculosis of spine | multiple sites in spine • Tuberculosis of spine | occipito-atlanto-axial region • Tuberculosis of spine | sacral and sacrococcygeal region • Tuberculosis of spine | site unspecified • Tuberculosis of spine | thoracic region • Tuberculosis of spine | thoracolumbar region • Tuberculosis of testis • Tuberculosis of thyroid gland • Tuberculosis of trachea NOS (without mention of bacteriological or histological confirmation) • Tuberculosis of trachea confirmed bacteriologically and histologically • Tuberculosis of ureter • Tuberculosis of vertebral column • Tuberculosis, Avian • Tuberculosis, Bovine • Tuberculosis, Cardiovascular • Tuberculosis, Central Nervous System • Tuberculosis, Cutaneous • Tuberculosis, Drug-Resistant • Tuberculosis, Endocrine • Tuberculosis, Extensively Drug-Resistant • Tuberculosis, Extremely Drug-Resistant • Tuberculosis, Female Genital • Tuberculosis, Gastrointestinal • Tuberculosis, Hepatic • Tuberculosis, Laryngeal • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node • Tuberculosis, MDR • Tuberculosis, Male Genital • Tuberculosis, Meningeal • Tuberculosis, Miliary • Tuberculosis, Multi-Drug Resistant • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant • Tuberculosis, Ocular • Tuberculosis, Oral • Tuberculosis, Osteoarticular • Tuberculosis, Peritoneal • Tuberculosis, Pleural • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary • Tuberculosis, Renal • Tuberculosis, Spinal • Tuberculosis, Splenic • Tuberculosis, Urogenital • Urogenital Tuberculosis • animal tuberculosis • congenital tuberculosis • due to tuberculosis • miliary tuberculosis • pulmonary tuberculosis • sequelae of tuberculosis • tuberculosis disseminated • tuberculosis generalized • tuberculosis of lymph nodes intrathoracic • tuberculosis of lymph nodes mesenteric and retroperitoneal • tuberculosis of spine • tuberculosis patient • tuberculosis sanatorium • tuberculosis sufferer

-2007 tuberculosis scare • Bone Tuberculosis • Cutaneous tuberculosis • Disseminated tuberculosis • Drug resistant tuberculosis • Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis • Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria • Global Plan to Stop Tuberculosis • History of tuberculosis • International Congress on Tuberculosis • Latent tuberculosis • List of tuberculosis victims • Miliary tuberculosis • Muirdale Tuberculosis Sanatorium • Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis • Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Structural Genomics Consortium • Mycobacterium tuberculosis • Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex • National Tuberculosis Association • Orificial tuberculosis • Phipps Institute for the Study, Treatment and Prevention of Tuberculosis • Primary inoculation tuberculosis • SDS Tuberculosis Sanatorium • The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria • Tuberculosis classification • Tuberculosis cutis acuta generalisata • Tuberculosis cutis colliquativa • Tuberculosis cutis disseminata • Tuberculosis cutis lichenoides • Tuberculosis cutis orificialis • Tuberculosis diagnosis • Tuberculosis in China • Tuberculosis in popular culture • Tuberculosis luposa • Tuberculosis radiology • Tuberculosis treatment • Tuberculosis vaccines • Tuberculosis verrucosa cutis • Urogenital tuberculosis • Vietnamese tuberculosis • Warty tuberculosis • World Tuberculosis Day

analogical dictionary



Classification and external resources

Chest X-ray of a person with advanced tuberculosis. Infection in both lungs is marked by white arrow-heads, and the formation of a cavity is marked by black arrows.
ICD-10 A15A19
ICD-9 010018
OMIM 607948
DiseasesDB 8515
MedlinePlus 000077 000624
eMedicine med/2324 emerg/618 radio/411
MeSH D014376

Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB (short for tubercle bacillus) is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis.[1] Tuberculosis typically attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have an active TB infection cough, sneeze, or otherwise transmit their saliva through the air.[2] Most infections are asymptomatic and latent, but about one in ten latent infections eventually progresses to active disease which, if left untreated, kills more than 50% of those so infected.

The classic symptoms of active TB infection are a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss (the latter giving rise to the formerly prevalent term "consumption"). Infection of other organs causes a wide range of symptoms. Diagnosis of active TB relies on radiology (commonly chest X-rays) as well as microscopic examination and microbiological culture of body fluids. Diagnosis of latent TB relies on the tuberculin skin test (TST) and/or blood tests. Treatment is difficult and requires administration of multiple antibiotics over a long period of time. Social contacts are also screened and treated if necessary. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) infections. Prevention relies on screening programs and vaccination with the bacillus Calmette–Guérin vaccine.

One third of the world's population is thought to have been infected with M. tuberculosis,[3] with new infections occurring at a rate of about one per second.[3] In 2007, there were an estimated 13.7 million chronic active cases globally,[4] while in 2010 there were an estimated 8.8 million new cases and 1.5 million associated deaths, mostly occurring in developing countries.[5] The absolute number of tuberculosis cases has been decreasing since 2006, and new cases have decreased since 2002.[5] The distribution of tuberculosis is not uniform across the globe; about 80% of the population in many Asian and African countries test positive in tuberculin tests, while only 5–10% of the United States population tests positive.[1] More people in the developing world contract tuberculosis because of compromised immunity, largely due to high rates of HIV infection and the corresponding development of AIDS.[6]


Signs and symptoms

  The main symptoms of variants and stages of tuberculosis are given,[7] with many symptoms overlapping with other variants, while others are more (but not entirely) specific for certain variants. Multiple variants may be present simultaneously.

About 5–10% of those without HIV, infected with tuberculosis, develop active disease during their lifetimes.[8] In contrast, 30% of those co-infected with HIV develop active disease.[8] Tuberculosis may infect any part of the body, but most commonly occurs in the lungs (known as pulmonary tuberculosis).[9] Extrapulmonary TB occurs when tuberculosis develops outside of the lungs. Extrapulmonary TB may co-exist with pulmonary TB as well.[9] General signs and symptoms include fever, chills, night sweats, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue,[9] and significant finger clubbing may also occur.[8]


If a tuberculosis infection does become active, it most commonly involves the lungs (in about 90% of cases).[6][10] Symptoms may include chest pain and a prolonged cough producing sputum. About 25% of people may not have any symptoms (i.e. they remain "asymptomatic").[6] Occasionally, people may cough up blood in small amounts, and in very rare cases the infection may erode into the pulmonary artery, resulting in massive bleeding (Rasmussen's aneurysm). Tuberculosis may become a chronic illness and cause extensive scarring in the upper lobes of the lungs. The upper lung lobes are more frequently affected by tuberculosis than the lower ones.[9] The reason for this difference is not entirely clear.[1] It may be due either to better air flow,[1] or to poor lymph drainage within the upper lungs.[9]


In 15–20% of active cases, the infection spreads outside the respiratory organs, causing other kinds of TB.[11] These are collectively denoted as "extrapulmonary tuberculosis".[12] Extrapulmonary TB occurs more commonly in immunosuppressed persons and young children. In those with HIV this occurs in more than 50% of cases.[12] Notable extrapulmonary infection sites include the pleura (in tuberculous pleurisy), the central nervous system (in tuberculous meningitis), the lymphatic system (in scrofula of the neck), the genitourinary system (in urogenital tuberculosis), and the bones and joints (in Pott's disease of the spine), among others. When it spreads to the bones, it is also known as "osseous tuberculosis".[13] a form of osteomyelitis.[1] A potentially more serious, widespread form of TB is called "disseminated" TB, commonly known as miliary tuberculosis.[9] Miliary TB makes up about 10% of extra pulmonary cases.[14]



The main cause of TB is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a small, aerobic nonmotile bacillus.[9] The high lipid content of this pathogen accounts for many of its unique clinical characteristics.[15] It divides every 16 to 20 hours, which is an extremely slow rate compared with other bacteria, which usually divide in less than an hour.[16] Mycobacteria have an outer membrane lipid bilayer.[17] If a Gram stain is performed, MTB either stains very weakly "Gram-positive" or does not retain dye as a result of the high lipid and mycolic acid content of its cell wall.[18] MTB can withstand weak disinfectants and survive in a dry state for weeks. In nature, the bacterium can grow only within the cells of a host organism, but M. tuberculosis can be cultured in the laboratory.[19]

Using histological stains on expectorated samples from phlegm (also called "sputum"), scientists can identify MTB under a regular (light) microscope. Since MTB retains certain stains even after being treated with acidic solution, it is classified as an acid-fast bacillus (AFB).[1][18] The most common acid-fast staining techniques are the Ziehl–Neelsen stain, which dyes AFBs a bright red that stands out clearly against a blue background,[20] and the auramine-rhodamine stain followed by fluorescence microscopy.[21]

The M. tuberculosis complex (MTBC) includes four other TB-causing mycobacteria: M. bovis, M. africanum, M. canetti, and M. microti.[22] M. africanum is not widespread, but it is a significant cause of tuberculosis in parts of Africa.[23][24] M. bovis was once a common cause of tuberculosis, but the introduction of pasteurized milk has largely eliminated this as a public health problem in developed countries.[1][25] M. canetti is rare and seems to be limited to the Horn of Africa, although a few cases have been seen in African emigrants.[26][27] M. microti is also rare and is mostly seen in immunodeficient people, although the prevalence of this pathogen has possibly been significantly underestimated.[28]

Other known pathogenic mycobacteria include M. leprae, M. avium, and M. kansasii. The latter two species are classified as "nontuberculous mycobacteria" (NTM). NTM cause neither TB nor leprosy, but they do cause pulmonary diseases that resemble TB.[29]

Risk factors

A number of factors make people more susceptible to TB infections. The most important risk factor globally is HIV; 13% of all TB cases are infected by the virus.[5] This is a particular problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where rates of HIV are high.[30][31] Tuberculosis is closely linked to both overcrowding and malnutrition, making it one of the principal diseases of poverty.[6] Those at high risk thus include: people who inject illicit drugs, inhabitants and employees of locales where vulnerable people gather (e.g. prisons and homeless shelters), medically underprivileged and resource-poor communities, high-risk ethnic minorities, children in close contact with high-risk category patients and health care providers serving these clients.[32] Chronic lung disease is another significant risk factor - with silicosis increasing the risk about 30-fold.[33] Those who smoke cigarettes have nearly twice the risk of TB than non-smokers.[34] Other disease states can also increase the risk of developing tuberculosis, including alcoholism[6] and diabetes mellitus (threefold increase).[35] Certain medications, such as corticosteroids and infliximab (an anti-αTNF monoclonal antibody) are becoming increasingly important risk factors, especially in the developed world.[6] There is also a genetic susceptibility[36] for which overall importance is still undefined.[6]


  Public health campaigns in the 1920s tried to halt the spread of TB.


When people with active pulmonary TB cough, sneeze, speak, sing, or spit, they expel infectious aerosol droplets 0.5 to 5 µm in diameter. A single sneeze can release up to 40,000 droplets.[37] Each one of these droplets may transmit the disease, since the infectious dose of tuberculosis is very low (the inhalation of fewer than 10 bacteria may cause an infection).[38]

People with prolonged, frequent, or close contact with people with TB are at particularly high risk of becoming infected, with an estimated 22% infection rate.[39] A person with active but untreated tuberculosis may infect 10–15 (or more) other people per year.[3] Transmission should only occur from people with active TB - those with latent infection are not thought to be contagious.[1] The probability of transmission from one person to another depends upon several factors, including the number of infectious droplets expelled by the carrier, the effectiveness of ventilation, the duration of exposure, the virulence of the M. tuberculosis strain, the level of immunity in the uninfected person, and others.[40] The cascade of person-to-person spread can be circumvented by effectively segregating those with active ("overt") TB and putting them on anti-TB drug regimens. After about two weeks of effective treatment, subjects with non-resistant active infections generally do not remain contagious to others.[39] If someone does become infected, it typically takes three to four weeks before the newly infected person becomes infectious enough to transmit the disease to others.[41]


About 90% of those infected with M. tuberculosis have asymptomatic, latent TB infections (sometimes called LTBI),[42] with only a 10% lifetime chance that the latent infection will progress to overt, active tuberculous disease.[43] In those with HIV, the risk of developing active TB increases to nearly 10% a year.[43] If effective treatment is not given, the death rate for active TB cases is up to 66%.[3]

TB infection begins when the mycobacteria reach the pulmonary alveoli, where they invade and replicate within endosomes of alveolar macrophages.[1][44] The primary site of infection in the lungs, known as the "Ghon focus", is generally located in either the upper part of the lower lobe, or the lower part of the upper lobe.[1] Tuberculosis of the lungs may also occur via infection from the blood stream. This is known as a Simon focus and is typically found in the top of the lung.[45] This hematogenous transmission can also spread infection to more distant sites such as peripheral lymph nodes, the kidneys, the brain, and the bones.[1][46] All parts of the body can be affected by the disease, though for unknown reasons it rarely affects the heart, skeletal muscles, pancreas, or thyroid.[47]

Tuberculosis is classified as one of the granulomatous inflammatory diseases. Macrophages, T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, and fibroblasts are among the cells that aggregate to form granulomas, with lymphocytes surrounding the infected macrophages. The granuloma prevents dissemination of the mycobacteria and provides a local environment for interaction of cells of the immune system. Bacteria inside the granuloma can become dormant, resulting in latent infection. Another feature of the granulomas is the development of abnormal cell death (necrosis) in the center of tubercles. To the naked eye, this has the texture of soft, white cheese and is termed caseous necrosis.[48]

If TB bacteria gain entry to the bloodstream from an area of damaged tissue, they can spread throughout the body and set up many foci of infection, all appearing as tiny, white tubercles in the tissues.[49] This severe form of TB disease, most common in young children and those with HIV, is called miliary tuberculosis.[50] People with this disseminated TB have a high fatality rate even with treatment (about 30%).[14][51]

In many people, the infection waxes and wanes. Tissue destruction and necrosis are often balanced by healing and fibrosis.[48] Affected tissue is replaced by scarring and cavities filled with caseous necrotic material. During active disease, some of these cavities are joined to the air passages bronchi and this material can be coughed up. It contains living bacteria, and so can spread the infection. Treatment with appropriate antibiotics kills bacteria and allows healing to take place. Upon cure, affected areas are eventually replaced by scar tissue.[48]


Active tuberculosis

Diagnosing active tuberculosis based merely on signs and symptoms is difficult,[52] as is diagnosing the disease in those who are immunosuppressed.[53] A diagnosis of TB should, however, be considered in those with signs of lung disease or constitutional symptoms lasting longer than two weeks.[53] A chest X-ray and multiple sputum cultures for acid-fast bacilli are typically part of the initial evaluation.[53] Interferon-γ release assays and tuberculin skin tests are of little use in the developing world.[54][55] IGRA have similar limitations in those with HIV.[56][57]

A definitive diagnosis of TB is made by identifying M. tuberculosis in a clinical sample (e.g. sputum, pus, or a tissue biopsy). However, the difficult culture process for this slow-growing organism can take two to six weeks for blood or sputum culture.[58] Thus, treatment is often begun before cultures are confirmed.[59]

Nucleic acid amplification tests and adenosine deaminase testing may allow rapid diagnosis of TB.[52] These tests, however, are not routinely recommended, as they rarely alter how a person is treated.[59] Blood tests to detect antibodies are not specific or sensitive, so they are not recommended.[60]

Latent tuberculosis

The Mantoux tuberculin skin test is often used to screen people at high risk for TB.[53] Those who have been previously immunized may have a false-positive test result.[61] The test may be falsely negative in those with sarcoidosis, Hodgkin's lymphoma, malnutrition, or most notably, in those who truly do have active tuberculosis.[1] Interferon gamma release assays (IGRAs), on a blood sample, are recommended in those who are positive to the Mantoux test.[59] These are not affected by immunization or most environmental mycobacteria, so they generate fewer false-positive results.[62] However they are affected by M. szulgai, M. marinum and M. kansasii.[63] IGRAs may increase sensitivity when used in addition to the skin test but may be less sensitive than the skin test when used alone.[64]


Tuberculosis prevention and control efforts primarily rely on the vaccination of infants and the detection and appropriate treatment of active cases.[6] The World Health Organization has achieved some success with improved treatment regimens, and a small decrease in case numbers.[6]


The only currently available vaccine as of 2011 is bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) which, while it is effective against disseminated disease in childhood, confers inconsistent protection against contracting pulmonary TB.[65] Nevertheless, it is the most widely used vaccine worldwide, with more than 90% of all children being vaccinated.[6] However, the immunity it induces decreases after about ten years.[6] As tuberculosis is uncommon in most of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, BCG is only administered to people at high risk.[66][67][68] Part of the reasoning arguing against the use of the vaccine is that it makes the tuberculin skin test falsely positive, and therefore, of no use in screening.[68] A number of new vaccines are currently in development.[6]

Public health

The World Health Organization declared TB a "global health emergency" in 1993,[6] and in 2006, the Stop TB Partnership developed a Global Plan to Stop Tuberculosis that aims to save 14 million lives between its launch and 2015.[69] A number of targets they have set are not likely to be achieved by 2015, mostly due to the increase in HIV-associated tuberculosis and the emergence of multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).[6] A tuberculosis classification system developed by the American Thoracic Society is used primarily in public health programs.[70]


Treatment of TB uses antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Effective TB treatment is difficult, due to the unusual structure and chemical composition of the mycobacterial cell wall, which hinders the entry of drugs and makes many antibiotics ineffective.[71] The two antibiotics most commonly used are isoniazid and rifampicin, and treatments can be prolonged (months).[40] Latent TB treatment usually employs a single antibiotic,[72] while active TB disease is best treated with combinations of several antibiotics to reduce the risk of the bacteria developing antibiotic resistance.[6] People with latent infections are also treated to prevent them from progressing to active TB disease later in life.[72] Directly observed therapy (DOTS), i.e. having a health care provider watch the person take their medications, is recommended by the WHO in an effort to reduce the number of people not appropriately taking antibiotics.[73] The evidence to support this practice over people simply taking their medications independently is poor.[74] Methods to remind people of the importance of treatment do however appear effective.[75]

New onset

The recommended treatment of new-onset pulmonary tuberculosis, as of 2010, is six months of a combination of antibiotics containing rifampicin, isoniazid, pyrazinamide and ethambutol for the first two months, and only rifampicin and isoniazid for the last four months.[6] Where resistance to isoniazid is high, ethambutol may be added for the last four months as an alternative.[6]

Recurrent disease

If tuberculosis recurs, testing to determine to which antibiotics it is sensitive is important before determining treatment.[6] If multiple drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is detected, treatment with at least four effective antibiotics for 18 to 24 months is recommended.[6]

Medication resistance

Primary resistance occurs when a person becomes infected with a resistant strain of TB. A person with fully susceptible TB may develop secondary (acquired) resistance during therapy because of inadequate treatment, not taking the prescribed regimen appropriately (lack of compliance), or using low-quality medication.[76] Drug-resistant TB is a serious public health issue in many developing countries, as its treatment is longer and requires more expensive drugs. MDR-TB is defined as resistance to the two most effective first-line TB drugs: rifampicin and isoniazid. Extensively drug-resistant TB is also resistant to three or more of the six classes of second-line drugs.[77] Totally drug-resistant TB, which was first observed in 2003 in Italy but not widely reported until 2012, is resistant to all currently used drugs.[78]


Progression from TB infection to overt TB disease occurs when the bacilli overcome the immune system defenses and begin to multiply. In primary TB disease (some 1–5% of cases) this occurs soon after the initial infection.[1] However, in the majority of cases, a latent infection occurs with no obvious symptoms.[1] These dormant bacilli produce active tuberculosis in 5–10% of these latent cases, often many years after infection.[8]

The risk of reactivation increases with immunosuppression, such as that caused by infection with HIV. In people co-infected with M. tuberculosis and HIV, the risk of reactivation increases to 10% per year.[1] Studies using DNA fingerprinting of M. tuberculosis strains have shown that reinfection contributes more substantially to recurrent TB than previously thought,[79] with estimates that it might account for more than 50% of reactivated cases in areas where TB is common.[80] The chance of death from a case of tuberculosis is about 4% as of 2008, down from 8% in 1995.[6]


World map with sub-Saharan Africa in various shades of yellow, marking prevalences above 300 per 100,000, and with the U.S., Canada, Australia, and northern Europe in shades of deep blue, marking prevalences around 10 per 100,000. Asia is yellow but not quite so bright, marking prevalences around 200 per 100,000 range. South America is a darker yellow.
  In 2007, the prevalence of TB per 100,000 people was highest in sub-Saharan Africa, and was also relatively high in Asia.[81]

Roughly one third of the world's population has been infected with M. tuberculosis, and new infections occur at a rate of one per second on a global scale.[3] However, most infections with M. tuberculosis do not cause TB disease,[82] and 90–95% of infections remain asymptomatic.[42] In 2007, there were an estimated 13.7 million chronic active cases.[4] In 2010, there were 8.8 million new cases of TB diagnosed, and 1.45 million deaths, most of these occurring in developing countries.[5] Of these 1.45 million deaths, about 0.35 million occur in those coinfected with HIV.[83]

Tuberculosis is the second most common cause of death from infectious disease (after those due to HIV/AIDS).[9] The absolute number of tuberculosis cases ("prevalence") has been decreasing since 2005, while new cases ("incidence") have decreased since 2002.[5] China has achieved particularly dramatic progress, with an approximate 80% reduction in its TB mortality rate between 1990 and 2010.[83] Tuberculosis is more common in developing countries; about 80% of the population in many Asian and African countries test positive in tuberculin tests, while only 5–10% of the US population test positive.[1] Hopes of totally controlling the disease have been dramatically dampened because of a number of factors, including the difficulty of developing an effective vaccine, the expensive and time-consuming diagnostic process, the necessity of many months of treatment, the increase in HIV-associated tuberculosis, and the emergence of drug-resistant cases in the 1980s.[6]

  Annual number of new reported TB cases. Data from WHO.[84]

In 2007, the country with the highest estimated incidence rate of TB was Swaziland, with 1,200 cases per 100,000 people. India had the largest total incidence, with an estimated 2.0 million new cases.[4] In developed countries, tuberculosis is less common and is found mainly in urban areas. Rates per 100,000 people in different areas of the world where: globally 178, Africa 332, the Americas 36, Eastern Mediterranean 173, Europe 63, South East Asia 278, and Western Pacific 139 in 2010.[83] In Canada and Australia, tuberculosis is many times more common among the aboriginal peoples, especially in remote areas.[85][86] In the United States the Aborigines have a five fold greater mortality from TB.[87]

The incidence of TB varies with age. In Africa, it primarily affects adolescents and young adults.[88] However, in countries where incidence rates have declined dramatically (such as the United States), TB is mainly a disease of older people and the immunocompromised.[1][89]


  Egyptian mummy in the British Museum - tubercular decay has been found in the spines of Egyptian mummies.

Tuberculosis has been present in humans since antiquity.[6] The earliest unambiguous detection of M. tuberculosis involves evidence of the disease in the remains of bison dated to approximately 17,000 years ago.[90] However, whether tuberculosis originated in bovines, then was transferred to humans, or whether it diverged from a common ancestor, is currently unclear.[91] A comparison of the genes of M. tuberculosis complex (MTBC) in humans to MTBC in animals suggests that humans did not acquire MTBC from animals during animal domestication, as was previously believed. Both strains of the tuberculosis bacteria share a common ancestor, which could have infected humans as early as the Neolithic Revolution.[92] Skeletal remains show prehistoric humans (4000 BC) had TB, and researchers have found tubercular decay in the spines of Egyptian mummies dating from 3000–2400 BC.[93] "Phthisis" is a Greek word for consumption, an old term for pulmonary tuberculosis;[94] around 460 BC, Hippocrates identified phthisis as the most widespread disease of the times. It was said to involve fever and the coughing up of blood, which was almost always fatal.[95] Genetic studies suggest TB was present in the Americas from about the year 100 AD.[96]

Before the Industrial Revolution, folklore often associated tuberculosis with vampires. When one member of a family died from it, the other infected members would lose their health slowly. People believed this was caused by the original person with TB draining the life from the other family members.[97]

Although the pulmonary form associated with tubercles was established as a pathology by Dr Richard Morton in 1689,[98][99] due to the variety of its symptoms, TB was not identified as a single disease until the 1820s, and was not named tuberculosis until 1839 by J. L. Schönlein.[100] During the years 1838–1845, Dr. John Croghan, the owner of Mammoth Cave, brought a number of people with tuberculosis into the cave in the hope of curing the disease with the constant temperature and purity of the cave air: they died within a year.[101] Hermann Brehmer opened the first TB sanatorium in 1859 in Sokołowsko, Poland.[102]

  Dr. Robert Koch discovered the tuberculosis bacilli.

The bacillus causing tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, was identified and described on 24 March 1882 by Robert Koch. He received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1905 for this discovery.[103] Koch did not believe the bovine (cattle) and human tuberculosis diseases were similar, which delayed the recognition of infected milk as a source of infection. Later, the risk of transmission from this source was dramatically reduced by the invention of the pasteurization process. Koch announced a glycerine extract of the tubercle bacilli as a "remedy" for tuberculosis in 1890, calling it 'tuberculin'. While it was not effective, it was later successfully adapted as a screening test for the presence of presymptomatic tuberculosis.[104]

Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin achieved the first genuine success in immunization against tuberculosis in 1906, using attenuated bovine-strain tuberculosis. It was called BCG (bacillus of Calmette and Guérin). The BCG vaccine was first used on humans in 1921 in France,[105] but only received widespread acceptance in the USA, Great Britain, and Germany after World War II.[106]

Tuberculosis caused the most widespread public concern in the 19th and early 20th centuries as an endemic disease of the urban poor. In 1815, one in four deaths in England was due to "consumption". By 1918, one in six deaths in France was still caused by TB. After determining that the disease was contagious in the 1880s, TB was put on a notifiable disease list in Britain, campaigns were started to stop people from spitting in public places, and the infected poor were "encouraged" to enter sanatoria that resembled prisons (the sanatoria for the middle and upper classes offered excellent care and constant medical attention).[102] Whatever the (purported) benefits of the "fresh air" and labor in the sanatoria, even under the best conditions, 50% of those who entered died within five years (ca. 1916).[102]

In Europe, rates of tuberculosis began to rise in the early 1600s to a peak level in the 1800s, when it caused nearly 25% of all deaths.[107] Mortality then decreased nearly 90% by the 1950s.[108] Improvements in public health began significantly reducing rates of tuberculosis even before the arrival of streptomycin and other antibiotics, although the disease remained a significant threat to public health such that when the Medical Research Council was formed in Britain in 1913, its initial focus was tuberculosis research.[109]

In 1946, the development of the antibiotic streptomycin made effective treatment and cure of TB a reality. Prior to the introduction of this drug, the only treatment (except sanatoria) was surgical intervention, including the "pneumothorax technique", which involved collapsing an infected lung to "rest" it and allow tuberculous lesions to heal.[110] The emergence of MDR-TB has again introduced surgery as an option within the generally accepted standard of care in treating TB infections. Current surgical interventions involve removal of pathological chest cavities ("bullae") in the lungs to reduce the number of bacteria and to increase the exposure of the remaining bacteria to drugs in the bloodstream, thereby simultaneously reducing the total bacterial load and increasing the effectiveness of systemic antibiotic therapy.[111] Hopes of completely eliminating TB (cf. smallpox) were dashed after the rise of drug-resistant strains in the 1980s. The subsequent resurgence of tuberculosis resulted in the declaration of a global health emergency by the World Health Organization in 1993.[112]

Society and culture

The World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are subsidizing a new fast-acting diagnostic test for use in low- and middle-income countries.[113][114] Many resource-poor places as of 2011 still only have access to sputum microscopy.[115]

India had the highest total number of TB cases worldwide in 2010, in part due to poor disease management within the private health care sector. Programs such as the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program are helping to reduce TB levels amongst people receiving public health care.[116][117]


The BCG vaccine has limitations, and research to develop new TB vaccines is ongoing.[118] A number of potential candidates are currently in phase I and II clinical trials.[118] Two main approaches are being used to attempt to improve the efficacy of available vaccines. One approach involves adding a subunit vaccine to BCG, while the other strategy is attempting to create new and better live vaccines.[118] MVA85A, an example of a subunit vaccine which is currently in trials in South Africa, is based on a genetically modified vaccinia virus.[119] Vaccines are hoped to play a significant role in treatment of both latent and active disease.[120]

To encourage further discovery, researchers and policymakers are promoting new economic models of vaccine development, including prizes, tax incentives, and advance market commitments.[121][122] A number of groups, including the Stop TB Partnership,[123] the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, and the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation, are involved with research.[124] Among these, the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation received a gift of more than $280 million (US) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and license an improved vaccine against tuberculosis for use in high burden countries.[125][126]

In other animals

Mycobacteria infect many different animals, including birds,[127] rodents,[128] and reptiles.[129] The subspecies Mycobacterium tuberculosis, though, is rarely present in wild animals.[130] An effort to eradicate bovine tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium bovis from the cattle and deer herds of New Zealand has been relatively successful.[131] Efforts in Great Britain have been less successful.[132][133]


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