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Tuberculosis (TB)

A disease caused by a specific type of bacteria that spreads from one person to another through the air. Tuberculosis can affect many parts of the body, but most often affects the lungs.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by germs that are spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys, or the spine. A person with TB can die if they do not get treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of TB?

The general symptoms of TB disease include feelings of sickness or weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. The symptoms of TB disease of the lungs also include coughing, chest pain, and the coughing up of blood. Symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected.

How is TB Spread?

TB germs are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. These germs can stay in the air for several hours, depending on the environment....Read more about Tuberculosis CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

No trials on effectiveness of treatments to prevent latent tuberculosis from developing into active disease in people exposed to multiple‐drug‐resistant tuberculosis (MDR‐TB)

The emergence and spread of MDR‐TB, caused by strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistant to at least the common drugs used for TB (isoniazid and rifampicin), is a threat to people worldwide. Treatment of latent tuberculosis (infection without active disease) has been a key component in tuberculosis control for several decades. However, MDR‐TB is spreading and people are dying. This review of evidence found no randomized controlled trials that have assessed the effectiveness of treatments of latent tuberculosis infection in people exposed to MDR‐TB. Currently the balance of benefits and harms associated with treatment for latent tuberculosis infection in people exposed to MDR‐TB is far from clear. Drug treatments should only be offered within the context of a well‐designed randomized controlled trial, or where people are given the details of the current evidence on benefits or harms, along with the uncertainties.

No benefit from immunotherapy with Mycobacterium vaccae in people with tuberculosis

Injections that aim to influence a person's immune system have been used by doctors to lessen the chance of a person developing a disease, or sometimes to reduce the damage the disease does to the body. M. vaccae is a type of bacterium related to the one that causes tuberculosis. Scientists have wondered if injections of this could reduce the damage done to someone when they are infected with tuberculosis, and some early trials suggested this might be true. However, this overview involving eight trials identified that the research does not show any consistent effect of this injection on death or the course of tuberculosis illness. It may be that the early trials had methodological problems that led to false optimism about this intervention.

The impact of tuberculosis preventive therapy on tuberculosis and death in HIV‐infected children

Tuberculosis (TB) is a common cause of severe lung disease and death in children infected with HIV, particularly those living in areas of high tuberculosis prevalence. Hence preventing TB infection and disease in HIV‐infected children is desirable and potentially an important major public health intervention. Isoniazid, a medication used in the treatment of TB, has been effectively used to prevent TB in HIV‐uninfected children exposed to TB. However, it is unclear what impact TB preventive therapy such as isoniazid has on the rate of TB or death if given to HIV‐infected children with and without exposure to TB. This review aimed to assess the impact of any TB preventive therapy on the rate of TB or death when given to HIV‐infected children. We found only one published randomised controlled trial investigating TB preventive therapy in HIV‐infected children. The trial showed a marked reduction in TB incidence and death in the group of children who received isoniazid as primary preventive therapy. Few adverse events occurred during the study and none were related to the isoniazid therapy. However there are currently no long‐term follow up data on the durability of the protective effect or possible long term adverse events. This trial was also unable to assess the impact of isoniazid prophylaxis on children receiving antiretroviral therapy. Further studies are needed to assess whether TB preventive therapy is of benefit in all HIV‐infected children irrespective of use of antiretroviral treatment; the optimal duration of preventive therapy or long term adverse effects.

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Summaries for consumers

No trials on effectiveness of treatments to prevent latent tuberculosis from developing into active disease in people exposed to multiple‐drug‐resistant tuberculosis (MDR‐TB)

The emergence and spread of MDR‐TB, caused by strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistant to at least the common drugs used for TB (isoniazid and rifampicin), is a threat to people worldwide. Treatment of latent tuberculosis (infection without active disease) has been a key component in tuberculosis control for several decades. However, MDR‐TB is spreading and people are dying. This review of evidence found no randomized controlled trials that have assessed the effectiveness of treatments of latent tuberculosis infection in people exposed to MDR‐TB. Currently the balance of benefits and harms associated with treatment for latent tuberculosis infection in people exposed to MDR‐TB is far from clear. Drug treatments should only be offered within the context of a well‐designed randomized controlled trial, or where people are given the details of the current evidence on benefits or harms, along with the uncertainties.

No benefit from immunotherapy with Mycobacterium vaccae in people with tuberculosis

Injections that aim to influence a person's immune system have been used by doctors to lessen the chance of a person developing a disease, or sometimes to reduce the damage the disease does to the body. M. vaccae is a type of bacterium related to the one that causes tuberculosis. Scientists have wondered if injections of this could reduce the damage done to someone when they are infected with tuberculosis, and some early trials suggested this might be true. However, this overview involving eight trials identified that the research does not show any consistent effect of this injection on death or the course of tuberculosis illness. It may be that the early trials had methodological problems that led to false optimism about this intervention.

The impact of tuberculosis preventive therapy on tuberculosis and death in HIV‐infected children

Tuberculosis (TB) is a common cause of severe lung disease and death in children infected with HIV, particularly those living in areas of high tuberculosis prevalence. Hence preventing TB infection and disease in HIV‐infected children is desirable and potentially an important major public health intervention. Isoniazid, a medication used in the treatment of TB, has been effectively used to prevent TB in HIV‐uninfected children exposed to TB. However, it is unclear what impact TB preventive therapy such as isoniazid has on the rate of TB or death if given to HIV‐infected children with and without exposure to TB. This review aimed to assess the impact of any TB preventive therapy on the rate of TB or death when given to HIV‐infected children. We found only one published randomised controlled trial investigating TB preventive therapy in HIV‐infected children. The trial showed a marked reduction in TB incidence and death in the group of children who received isoniazid as primary preventive therapy. Few adverse events occurred during the study and none were related to the isoniazid therapy. However there are currently no long‐term follow up data on the durability of the protective effect or possible long term adverse events. This trial was also unable to assess the impact of isoniazid prophylaxis on children receiving antiretroviral therapy. Further studies are needed to assess whether TB preventive therapy is of benefit in all HIV‐infected children irrespective of use of antiretroviral treatment; the optimal duration of preventive therapy or long term adverse effects.

See all (77)

More about Tuberculosis

Photo of an adult

Also called: Pulmonary tuberculosis

Other terms to know:
Bacteria, Immune System, Latent

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