What Can Cause Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB is primarily transmitted through the air when an infected person with active TB in the lungs coughs, sneezes, or talks, releasing respiratory droplets containing the bacteria. The infection is then spread to others who inhale the contaminated air.

Several factors can increase the risk of contracting tuberculosis:

  • Close Contact with an Infected Person: Being in close and prolonged contact with someone who has active TB increases the risk of transmission.
  • Weakened Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to TB. This includes people living with HIV/AIDS, those undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, and individuals taking immunosuppressive medications.
  • Malnutrition: Poor nutrition can weaken the immune system and make individuals more vulnerable to TB infection.
  • Living or Traveling in High-Risk Areas: TB is more common in certain regions of the world where the infection is prevalent. Traveling to or living in these areas can increase the risk of exposure.
  • Age: While TB can affect people of all ages, individuals under the age of 5 and those over the age of 65 are more vulnerable to severe forms of the disease.
  • Overcrowded and Poorly Ventilated Settings: Conditions that promote the close and prolonged exposure to respiratory droplets, such as crowded living spaces and inadequate ventilation, can contribute to TB transmission.

It’s important to note that not everyone exposed to Mycobacterium tuberculosis becomes infected, and not everyone infected develops active TB disease. In many cases, the immune system is able to control the infection in a latent form, and individuals may not exhibit symptoms or spread the disease. However, when the immune system is compromised, the bacteria can become active, leading to the development of active TB disease.

Preventive measures include vaccination with the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine in areas where TB is prevalent, appropriate treatment of individuals with active TB to prevent the spread of the disease, and early identification and treatment of latent TB infection in high-risk individuals. If someone suspects they have been exposed to TB or is experiencing symptoms such as persistent cough, weight loss, and fatigue, it is crucial to seek medical attention for testing and diagnosis.

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