TB & PULMONOLOGY

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What is pulmonary tuberculosis?

The bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes tuberculosis (TB), a contagious, airborne infection that destroys body tissue. Pulmonary TB occurs when M. tuberculosis primarily attacks the lungs. However, it can spread from there to other organs. Pulmonary TB is curable with an early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment.Pulmonary TB, also known as consumption, spread widely as an epidemic during the 18th and 19th centuries in North America and Europe. After the discovery of antibiotics like streptomycin and especially isoniazid, along with improved living standards, doctors were better able to treat and control the spread of TB.Since that time, TB has been in decline in most industrialized nations. However, TB remains in the top 10 causes of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with an estimated 95 percent of TB diagnoses as well as TB-related deaths occur in developing countries.

That said, it’s important to protect yourself against TB. Over 9.6 million people have an active form of the disease, according to the American Lung Association (ALA). If left untreated, the disease can cause life-threatening complications like permanent lung damage.It’s important to get treatment for latent TB even if you have no symptoms. You can still develop pulmonary TB disease in the future. You may only need one TB drug if you have latent TB.If you have pulmonary TB, your doctor may prescribe several medicines. You’ll need to take these drugs for six months or longer for the best results.

The most common TB medicines are:

  • isoniazid
  • pyrazinamide
  • ethambutol (Myambutol)
  • rifampin (Rifadin)
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What is latent TB?

Being exposed to M. tuberculosis doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get sick. Among the 2.5 billion people who carry the germ, most have latent TB.People with latent TB aren’t contagious and have no symptoms because their immune system is protecting them from getting sick. But it is possible for latent TB to develop into active TB. Most people with the germ have up to a 15 percent lifetime risk of getting sick with TB. The risk can be far higher if you have conditions that compromise your immune system such as HIV infection. When you start showing symptoms, you may become contagious and have pulmonary TB.

If you’re at risk of being exposed to M. tuberculosis (for example, because you were born in a country where TB is common), you should talk to your doctor about being tested for latent TB infection and being treated if test results are positive.