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Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a common and often deadly infectious disease caused by mycobacterium, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis in humans. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air, when people who have the disease cough, sneeze, or spit.

Most infections in humans result in an asymptomatic, latent infection, and about one in ten latent infections eventually progresses to active disease, which, if left untreated, kills more than half of its victims.The classic symptoms are a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. Infection of other organs causes a wide range of symptoms. Diagnosis relies on radiology, a tuberculin skin test, blood tests, as well as microscopic examination and microbiological culture of bodily fluids.

Treatment is difficult and requires long courses of multiple antibiotics. Contacts are also screened and treated if necessary. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. Prevention relies on screening programs and vaccination, usually with Bacillus Chalmette Guerin vaccine.A third of the world's populations are thought to be infected with M. tuberculosis, and new infections occur at a rate of about one per second. The proportion of people who become sick with tuberculosis each year is stable or falling worldwide but, because of population growth, the absolute number of new cases is still increasing.

In 2007 there were an estimated 13.7 million chronic active cases, 9.3 million new cases, and 1.8 million deaths, mostly in developing countries; In addition, more people in the developed world are contracting tuberculosis because their immune systems are compromised by immunosuppressive drugs, substance abuse, or AIDS.

The distribution of tuberculosis is not uniform across the globe; about 80% of the population in many Asian and African countries test positive in tuberculin tests, while only 5-10% of the US population test positive.Treatment for TB uses antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Effective TB treatment is difficult, due to the unusual structure and chemical composition of the mycobacterium cell wall, which makes many antibiotics ineffective and hinders the entry of drugs.

The two antibiotics most commonly used are rifampicin and ionized. However, instead of the short course of antibiotics typically used to cure other bacterial infections, TB requires much longer periods of treatment (around 6 to 24 months) to entirely eliminate mycobacterium from the body. Latent TB treatment usually uses a single antibiotic, while active TB disease is best treated with combinations of several antibiotics, to reduce the risk of the bacteria developing antibiotic resistance. People with latent infections are treated to prevent them from progressing to active TB disease later in life.Drug resistant tuberculosis is transmitted in the same way as regular TB. Primary resistance occurs in persons who are infected with a resistant strain of TB.

A patient with fully susceptible TB develops secondary resistance (acquired resistance) during TB therapy because of inadequate treatment, not taking the prescribed regimen appropriately, or using low quality medication. World TB Day is 24 March. 
 
 

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