How is Tuberculosis Caused?

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This infectious bacterium primarily affects the lungs but can also target other parts of the body, such as the brain, spine, and kidneys. TB spreads from person to person through the air when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, releasing tiny droplets containing the bacteria into the air. When someone nearby inhales these infected droplets, they can become infected with TB.

However, not everyone infected with M. tuberculosis develops active TB disease. In most cases, the immune system is strong enough to keep the bacteria in check, leading to a condition called latent TB infection (LTBI). People with LTBI do not feel sick and cannot spread TB to others. However, the bacteria can remain dormant in their bodies for years and become active later in life if their immune system weakens, making them more vulnerable to developing active TB disease.

Some factors increase the risk of developing active TB disease from LTBI:

  • Weakened Immune System: People with weakened immune systems due to medical conditions like HIV/AIDS, certain cancers, or immunosuppressive medications have a higher risk of developing active TB disease.
  • Malnutrition: Poor nutrition can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to TB.
  • Close Contact with an Active TB Case: Spending time with someone with active TB disease increases the risk of transmission.
  • Living Conditions: Crowded or poorly ventilated living conditions can facilitate the spread of TB.
  • Age: Young children and older adults have a higher risk of developing active TB disease.
  • Smoking and Substance Abuse: These habits can weaken the lungs and increase susceptibility to TB.

TB is a significant global health concern, and early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential to control its spread and prevent complications. If you suspect you or someone you know may have TB, it’s crucial to seek medical evaluation and testing. TB is treatable with antibiotics, and public health measures play a crucial role in preventing its spread.