What is Tuberculosis? Tuberculosis Symptoms, Causes, and Tests

What is Tuberculosis? Tuberculosis Symptoms, Causes, and Tests

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is a serious and contagious bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs. It can also impact other parts of the body, such as the brain, spine, and kidneys. TB is spread through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

What are the Symptoms of Tuberculosis?

The symptoms of TB can vary depending on the severity of the infection and the part of the body that is affected. Some common symptoms include:

  • Persistent cough that lasts for more than three weeks
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Coughing up blood or phlegm

What are the Causes of Tuberculosis?

TB is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It spreads through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or diabetes, are more susceptible to TB. It can also spread more easily in crowded living conditions and in areas with poor ventilation.

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by infection with bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Here are the key causes and risk factors for developing tuberculosis:

  1. Airborne Transmission: TB spreads through the air when someone with active TB in their lungs coughs or sneezes and spreads bacteria-containing droplets. Prolonged exposure is usually needed for infection.
  1. Latent vs Active Infection: Only about 10% of people exposed develop an active TB infection. The other 90% carry latent TB which has potential to activate later, especially if immunity drops.
  1. Risk Factors: Some key factors that increase risk of active TB developing include:
  • Weak immune systems (HIV, medications, etc.)
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor diet / poor health
  • Living/working in crowded places
  • Poverty
  1. Rare Cases: While most TB cases come from reactivation of latent TB, it can also rarely transmit from animals or through consumption of unpasteurized dairy products.

In summary, airborne person-to-person transmission by someone with active pulmonary TB causes 90% of new cases by spreading latent infection. Certain risk factors allow this latent infection to activate into full disease.

How to Test for Tuberculosis?

To test for tuberculosis (TB), healthcare providers can use two types of tests: the TB skin test (also known as the Mantoux tuberculin skin test or TST) and the TB blood test (also known as interferon-gamma release assays or IGRAs). The TB skin test involves injecting a small amount of fluid called tuberculin into the skin on the lower part of the arm. The patient must return within 48 to 72 hours to have a healthcare worker look for a reaction on the arm. A positive skin test means the person's body was infected with TB bacteria, and additional tests are needed to determine if the person has latent TB infection or TB disease.

The TB blood test, such as the QuantiFERON®-TB Gold Plus (QFT-Plus) or the T-SPOT.TB test, measures the immune system's response to antigens taken from the bacteria that causes TB. A positive blood test also indicates a previous exposure to TB bacteria, and additional tests are needed to determine if the person has latent TB infection or TB disease.

Both skin and blood tests can show if a person has been infected with TB bacteria, but they cannot distinguish between a latent (dormant) or active TB infection. Additional tests, such as a chest X-ray or a sputum test, are needed to determine if a person has TB disease.


Diagnosing TB involves a series of tests, including:

  • Tuberculin skin test: A small amount of fluid is injected under the skin, and the area is checked for a reaction after a few days.
  • Blood tests: These tests can detect antibodies to the TB bacteria. e.g. TB Gold test, TB by PCR test
  • Chest X-ray: This can show signs of TB infection in the lungs.
  • Sputum test: A sample of phlegm is analysed for the presence of TB bacteria.

How is Tuberculosis Treated?

TB is treated with a combination of antibiotics for at least six months. It is important to take the full course of antibiotics, even if symptoms improve, to prevent the development of drug-resistant TB. In addition to antibiotics, people with TB may need to take other medications to manage symptoms and side effects.

Tuberculosis (TB) is treated with a combination of antibiotics taken over an extended period of time. The key points regarding TB treatment include:

  1. Standard Treatment Regimen: For drug-sensitive TB, treatment usually involves a 4-drug course of isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol for 2 months followed by isoniazid and rifampin alone for 4 months.
  2. Importance of Full Compliance: It is extremely important patients take the full 6-9 month course as prescribed. Interrupting or stopping early allows TB bacteria to become drug resistant.
  3. Monitoring for Effectiveness: Patients require regular testing during and after treatment to ensure the drugs are working and TB bacteria counts are dropping through the full course.
  4. Treatment of Resistant Strains: For multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), additional and alternative antibiotics may be necessary for up to 24 months. These strains are more difficult to treat.
  5. Directly Observed Therapy: Some TB therapy programs involve healthcare workers directly monitoring doses to ensure strict compliance. This helps minimize treatment lapses that fuel resistance.

The full course of proper TB antibiotics, close monitoring, and patient compliance to finish the full regimen are vital in successfully treating TB and preventing worsening antibiotic resistance.

Can Tuberculosis be Cured?

Yes, tuberculosis (TB) can be cured with proper treatment. Some key points about curing TB:

  • TB is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria and usually attacks the lungs, but it can affect any part of the body.
  • TB can be cured by taking antibiotics specifically aimed at killing mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. This standard combination of antibiotics needs to be taken for at least 6 months.
  • The most commonly used antibiotics for TB are isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol. These antibiotics cannot treat other types of bacterial infections.
  • It is very important for people receiving TB treatment to take their medications exactly as prescribed and to finish the full course of treatment. Stopping early or skipping doses can lead to drug resistance.
  • For drug-resistant strains of TB additional antibiotics may be required over a longer time period of 18-24 months. These strains are harder to treat.
  • With proper detection and antibiotic treatment following medical guidance, most cases of TB can be successfully cured. However, delays in diagnosis and inadequate treatment can make curing more difficult.

So in summary – yes, tuberculosis is still a curable infection when properly diagnosed and treated with antibiotics long-term as prescribed by a knowledgeable physician. The key is appropriate TB testing and full, continuous treatment.

What Happens if you Had Tuberculosis?

Here are some of the key things that can happen if someone had tuberculosis (TB):

  1. Symptoms - Depending on the location of the infection, symptoms during active TB may include chronic cough, coughing of blood, fever, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, and night sweats.
  2. Lung Damage - If active TB disease develops in the lungs, it can damage lung tissue leading to bronchitis, chest pain and respiratory problems.
  3. Testing & Diagnosis - If TB is suspected, doctors perform tests like a chest X-ray, sputum smear and lab test to diagnose. These tests will detect if someone has active or latent TB.
  4. Need for Treatment - Once diagnosed, strong antibiotic treatment will be prescribed for 6 to 9 months. Not treating TB once diagnosed can lead to very serious health issues.
  5. Transmission - Those diagnosed with active, contagious TB in the lungs or throat will be isolated at the hospital or at home. This prevents the bacteria from spreading and infecting others.
  6. Long Term Consequences - Even with successful treatment, TB can leave scar tissue and some amount of permanent lung damage. This may cause long term issues for some.

In summary - a TB infection that progresses to active disease can be very serious if not diagnosed and contained properly. Following doctor's guidelines for full treatment is crucial after being diagnosed with TB.

Can Lungs Recover After TB?

Yes, it is possible for lungs to recover after tuberculosis (TB), especially with prompt treatment. However, some lung damage may persist. Here are the key points:

  • With early diagnosis and proper 6-9 month antibiotic treatment, the TB infection itself can be eliminated in most drug-sensitive cases allowing the lungs to heal.
  • However, TB bacteria can damage lung tissue as the infection progresses causing inflammation, scarring, and cavities/lesions. This may cause permanent loss of functional lung tissue.
  • If there is extensive lung damage prior to TB treatment, there may be residual issues such as reduced lung capacity, breathlessness, chronic cough, and increased infection risk even after being cured.
  • Stopping TB treatment early before eliminating all bacteria significantly raises the risk of lasting lung problems due to repeated cycles of tissue inflammation & healing.
  • Quitting smoking and following other healthy lifestyle tips can help maximize the healing capacity of lungs after TB takes its course. Pulmonary rehabilitation may help in some cases.

So in summary – with comprehensive TB treatment, lungs have the ability to recover but some residual lung damage may persist long term, especially if tissue damage was extensive prior to diagnosis and successful antibiotic therapy. Healthy lifestyle choices support optimal healing.

Challenges in Tuberculosis Control

TB continues to be a significant public health concern in many parts of the world, including India.

Despite efforts to control the disease, TB remains a leading cause of death worldwide, particularly among people with weakened immune systems. This is in part due to the emergence of drug-resistant strains of TB, which are much more difficult to treat and require longer courses of medication.

In addition, challenges in TB control include limited access to healthcare services, particularly in rural and remote areas, and stigma associated with the disease, which can discourage people from seeking treatment and lead to social isolation.

Tuberculosis Association of India

The Tuberculosis Association of India (TAI) is a non-governmental organization that is dedicated to the prevention and control of tuberculosis in India. It was established in 1939 and has since been working towards reducing the burden of TB in the country.

The TAI is involved in a range of activities aimed at reducing the incidence of TB and improving treatment outcomes. These activities include:

  1. Awareness and advocacy: The TAI conducts awareness campaigns to educate people about TB and the importance of seeking timely treatment. It also advocates for policies and programs that support TB prevention and control.
  2. Research and development: The TAI supports research into TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. This includes clinical trials of new drugs and treatment regimens, as well as studies into the social and economic determinants of TB.
  3. Capacity building: The TAI provides training and capacity building support to healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and community health workers, to improve the quality of TB care.
  4. Patient support: The TAI provides support to TB patients and their families, including counselling, nutritional support, and financial assistance.
  5. Collaboration: The TAI collaborates with other organizations and stakeholders, including government agencies, NGOs, and international organizations, to improve TB prevention and control.

The TAI has played a significant role in TB control in India over the years. It has contributed to the development of TB policies and programs, including the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) and the National Strategic Plan for Tuberculosis Elimination. It has also been involved in the development and implementation of guidelines for TB diagnosis and treatment.

In addition, the TAI has been instrumental in raising awareness about TB and reducing stigma associated with the disease. It has been involved in the development and dissemination of educational materials, including posters, pamphlets, and videos, to promote TB awareness and encourage people to seek treatment.

Despite the significant progress made in TB control in India, challenges remain. The emergence of drug-resistant TB is a major concern, as is the limited access to healthcare services in rural and remote areas. The TAI continues to work towards addressing these challenges through its various activities and collaborations.

What is Endometrial Tuberculosis?

Definition: Endometrial tuberculosis is a form of female genital tuberculosis that affects the endometrium (lining of the uterus). It is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria.
Here is a summary of key information about endometrial tuberculosis:
  • Transmission: It usually spreads to the endometrium through hematogenous spread (via the bloodstream) from a tuberculous focus elsewhere in the body, such as the lungs. More rarely, it can spread from nearby organs.
  • Symptoms: Abnormal uterine bleeding, pelvic pain, infertility, dysmenorrhea. However, it may also be asymptomatic.
  • Diagnosis: Diagnosis is made by endometrial biopsy showing granulomatous inflammation and presence of acid-fast bacilli. Imaging tests like hysterosalpingography may show abnormalities. PCR, bacterial culture may identify tuberculosis bacteria.
  • Treatment: Treatment involves taking a standard multi-drug anti-TB antibiotic regimen for 6-12 months. This helps resolve endometrial lesions and restore fertility in some women. Surgery like hysterectomy may occasionally be done for drug-resistant cases.
  • Risk Factors: Impaired immunity, poverty, overcrowding, poor nutrition, etc. Young women of reproductive age are most commonly affected.
  • Complications: Infertility, pregnancy complications like ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, adhesions inside the uterus (Asherman syndrome)

In summary, genital TB, though uncommon today with improving public health, still requires awareness as it can significantly impact women's reproductive health if undiagnosed.

Information about Tuberculosis in India

India has one of the highest burdens of tuberculosis (TB) in the world, accounting for one-fourth of the global TB cases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India reported around 2.6 million cases of TB in 2019, which is the highest among all countries.

TB is a serious public health issue in India and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the country. The high burden of TB in India is due to various factors such as poverty, overcrowding, malnutrition, poor living conditions, and lack of awareness and access to healthcare services.

The Indian government has launched various initiatives to combat TB, such as the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP), which provides free diagnostic and treatment services for TB. Additionally, healthcare organizations like healthcare nt sickcare play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating TB by providing various diagnostic tests and treatment options.

As TB is a bacterial infection, it is important to diagnose it at an early stage to prevent the spread of the disease and avoid complications. healthcare nt sickcare offers various diagnostic tests for TB such as the TB Quantiferon test, chest X-ray, and sputum culture. These tests can help in identifying the presence of the TB bacteria and determining the appropriate treatment plan.

In addition to diagnostic tests, healthcare nt sickcare also offers treatment options for TB such as antibiotics and anti-TB drugs. It is essential to complete the full course of treatment to ensure effective treatment and prevent the development of drug-resistant TB.

Preventing the spread of TB requires a combination of efforts such as early diagnosis, proper treatment, and adopting preventive measures such as good hygiene practices and avoiding close contact with people who have TB. By raising awareness about TB and promoting early diagnosis and treatment, healthcare nt sickcare plays an significant role in combating the TB epidemic in India.

Why Tuberculin Test is Banned in India?

The tuberculin test, also known as the Mantoux test, is a skin test that is used to screen for tuberculosis (TB). The test involves injecting a small amount of a protein called purified protein derivative (PPD) into the skin. If you have been exposed to TB, your body will react to the PPD and develop a lump at the injection site.

The tuberculin test is not accurate and can lead to misdiagnosis. In India, the tuberculin test was banned in 2012 because it was found to be inaccurate and unreliable. The test can give false-positive results, meaning that it can show that you have TB when you do not have the disease. This can lead to unnecessary treatment and anxiety.

The tuberculin test can also give false-negative results, meaning that it can show that you do not have TB when you do have the disease. This can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment, which can make TB more serious.

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend the use of the tuberculin test for TB screening. The WHO recommends the use of other, more accurate tests, such as the interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA).

The list of Tuberculosis Tests Allowed in India

The following tests are allowed in India for the diagnosis of tuberculosis:

  • Sputum smear microscopy: This is the most common test for TB. It involves examining a sample of your sputum (mucus coughed up from your lungs) under a microscope to look for TB bacteria.
  • Interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA): This is a blood test that measures your body's response to TB bacteria.
  • Chest X-ray: This test can show changes in your lungs that may be caused by TB.
  • GeneXpert MTB/RIF: This is a rapid molecular test that can detect TB bacteria and drug resistance in a few hours.

The choice of test will depend on your circumstances and the availability of tests in your area. If you are concerned that you may have TB, you should see a healthcare professional. They can help you decide which test is right for you.

Here are some additional details about the tests:

  • Sputum smear microscopy: This test is relatively inexpensive and easy to perform. However, it is not very sensitive, meaning that it can miss some cases of TB.
  • IGRA: This test is more sensitive than sputum smear microscopy. However, it is more expensive and not as widely available.
  • Chest X-ray: This test is not as sensitive as sputum smear microscopy or IGRA for diagnosing active TB. However, it can be useful for detecting old TB infections or for ruling out other possible causes of your symptoms.
  • GeneXpert MTB/RIF: This is a rapid molecular test that is very sensitive and specific for TB. It is also relatively easy to perform and can be used to detect drug resistance.

If you are concerned that you may have TB, you should see a healthcare professional. They can perform a more accurate test to determine whether you have the disease.

How Can healthcare nt sickcare Help?

healthcare nt sickcare offers a range of diagnostic tests to help diagnose TB, including the tuberculin skin test, blood tests, chest X-rays, and sputum tests. Our experienced medical professionals can help you understand your results and provide guidance on treatment options. Additionally, we offer telemedicine consultations with qualified doctors to provide remote medical advice and guidance.


In conclusion, tuberculosis is a serious and contagious bacterial infection that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. By understanding the symptoms and causes of TB and utilizing the diagnostic and treatment options offered by Healthcare nt sickcare, you can take control of your health and well-being.


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