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what is tuberculosis

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Tuberculosis was once a deadly infectious disease that spread quickly across large populations. Despite modern medical knowledge on how to control and treat tuberculosis, many patients continue to suffer from it, with some dying as a result. This article will teach you about tuberculosis, how to detect it, how to treat it, and how to avoid them.

What is tuberculosis

Tuberculosis, also known as tuberculosis, is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), which primarily affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body.  Tuberculosis has been around since antiquity, as evidenced by the disease being found in the remains of bison in Wyoming around 17,000 years ago. However, it is unclear whether tuberculosis originated in bovines and then spread to humans, or whether both bovine and human tuberculosis diverged from a common ancestor.

Before the Industrial Revolution, tuberculosis was frequently associated with vampires in folklore. Meanwhile, modern knowledge associates tuberculosis with infectious diseases, as the disease became an epidemic between the 18th and 19th centuries, killing at least one-fourth of Europeans during that time period. Tuberculosis was still prevalent among the urban poor in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, until improvements in sanitation, vaccination, and other public-health measures began to significantly reduce tuberculosis rates. The development of the antibiotic streptomycin in 1946 enabled the effective treatment and cure of tuberculosis.

Causes of tuberculosis

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a small, aerobic, nonmotile bacillus, is the primary cause of tuberculosis. Many tuberculosis cases in developing countries are caused by M. tuberculosis complex (MTBC), which includes M. bovis, M. africanum, M. canetti, and M. microti. Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTBM) such as M. leprae, M. avium, and M. kansasii can also cause lung diseases similar to tuberculosis.

When people with active pulmonary tuberculosis cough, sneeze, speak, sing, or spit, they expel infectious aerosol droplets 0.5 to 5.0 µm in diameter. Because the infectious dose of tuberculosis is so low, each of these droplets has the potential to spread the disease. People who have prolonged, frequent, or close contact with tuberculosis patients are especially vulnerable to infection, with an estimated 22% infection rate. Meanwhile, three conditions are increasing the risk of infection. 1) living in crowded conditions with insufficient ventilation, 2) being elderly or a smoker or frequent alcoholic user, and 3) having a compromised immune system.

Types and Symptoms of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis symptoms can vary depending on the stage and type of infection, which can be classified into two types: Latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) occurs when the bacteria remain dormant in the body and the individual exhibits no symptoms. However, there is a chance that it will progress to Active tuberculosis, in which bacteria become active and multiply, causing visible symptoms. 

In this case, common symptoms of tuberculosis include:

  • Persistent cough for more than three weeks, often producing phlegm or blood.
  • Generalized tiredness and lack of energy.
  • Loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss
  • Low-grade fever and night sweats 
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest area, especially while breathing or coughing.
  • Difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity.

If you are currently suffering from these symptoms, try to quarantine yourself from your family or people you living with and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Diagnostic and Treatment of tuberculosis

Diagnosing TB involves a combination of clinical evaluation, medical history, physical examinations, and various tests, including

  • Tuberculin skin test (TST) which a small amount of tuberculin is injected into the forearm and the area is checked for a reaction after 48 to 72 hours. A positive TST indicates exposure to TB but doesn’t distinguish between latent and active infection.
  • Interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs) by measuring the immune response to TB bacteria within blood samples.
  • Chest X-ray to reveal characteristic abnormalities in the lungs associated with active TB.
  • Sputum culture through analyzing a sample of sputum (phlegm) to identify and confirm the presence of TB bacteria.

If you test positive for tuberculosis, treatment is required to control its spread and prevent complications. Treatment typically involves the use of antibiotics in two phases: the initial phase, which involves the use of a combination of multiple antibiotics for two months to quickly kill as many bacteria as possible, and the continuation phase, which involves the use of specific antibiotics for an additional four to seven months to eradicate any remaining bacteria.


It is critical to receive the appropriate amount of antibiotics because TB bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance as a result of improper or incomplete treatment. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) strains pose significant challenges to global TB control efforts. Drug-resistant tuberculosis necessitates longer and more complex drug regimens, which are frequently toxic and ineffective.

Despite the fact that tuberculosis is a dangerous disease. Meanwhile, tuberculosis is a preventable disease thanks to the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin or BCG vaccine, which is given to all children in most countries. In addition, many countries have implemented infection control measures such as encouraging proper ventilation in buildings, isolating infectious individuals, and encouraging the use of face masks.

Tuberculosis treatment at Phyathai 1 International

General Medicine Clinic of Phyathai 1 International has included a specialized clinic in respiratory disease that is ready for diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis with our highly experienced specialists supported by our advanced laboratories. The specialized clinic in respiratory diseases is also ready to cope with other abnormalities in respiratory systems including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia.

If you are currently suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, our specialist from General Medicine Clinic at Phyathai 1 Hospital is ready to deal with it, as we are open daily from 8 AM to 8 PM and we recommend taking a reservation for a consultant by phone at number (+66)2-201-4600 ext.2166-67 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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