What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a chronic illness caused by the bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis most commonly affects the lungs. However, other parts of the body can be affected as well.
How is Tuberculosis spread?
Tuberculosis spreads when an individual with lung TB coughs, speaks or sneezes. People become infected with TB when they breathe in air containing the bacteria. Individuals more likely to develop active TB following infection with the disease include the elderly, young children. Similarly, persons with pre-existing diseases such as HIV, diabetes mellitus and cancer are more likely to develop active TB due to their weakened immune systems.
Symptoms of Tuberculosis
Symptoms of TB include fever, weight loss and night sweats. In patients with lung TB, cough is an important symptom. Patients with Tuberculosis affecting other parts of the body may have different manifestations of the disease depending on the part of the body that is affected.
Magnitude of the problem
In 2020, ten million people became infected with Tuberculosis across the world. In the same year, 1.5 million people died of the disease (including 214,000 people living with HIV). Tuberculosis affects people of all ages across different countries of the world. TB affects more individuals in the working age group. Similarly, males are more likely to develop TB compared to women. One person with Tuberculosis can infect between 5 and 15 persons in a year through close contact. If left untreated, 45% of persons (not infected with HIV) will die of Tuberculosis. In contrast, nearly all persons with TB/HIV dual infection will die of Tuberculosis.
The way forward: Treatment of Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is treatable and curable. Most cases of TB can be cured using a combination of anti-TB drugs administered over a period of six months. However, patients require supervision to use the anti-Tuberculosis drugs correctly during the treatment period. In a few patients, the initial treatment regimen may fail due to a variety of reasons. These include incorrect use of anti-TB drugs and the effects of other medications on anti-TB medications. TB treatment may be more difficult in patients with pre-existing diseases such as HIV, diabetes mellitus and cancer. In some instances, the TB bacteria may become non-responsive (or resistant) to the regular drugs used for TB treatment. Such TB cases are referred to as multi-drug resistant TB. Multi-drug resistant TB require a longer treatment period and the use of many more anti-TB drugs. Consequently, the drug side-effects are much higher.
World Tuberculosis Day
The World Health Organisation marks the World TB Day on 24th March, each year. March 24 is the anniversary of Robert Koch’s discovery of the TB bacteria in 1882. The World TB Day draws attention to the global pandemic of TB and efforts to end the disease. The theme of 2022 World TB Day is “Invest to end TB. Save lives.” TB cases increased globally in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, resources for TB diagnosis and treatment reduced sharply. In response, the 2022 World TB Day aims to draw attention to this funding problem and proffer lasting solutions. Partner with us as we work to end TB by the year 2030. Together, we can make this happen. #EMBA27
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