Tuberculosis – causes, symptoms and Treatments

Tuberculosis is a very serious infectious disease that is transmitted by air through droplets of saliva. Some forms of tuberculosis remain latent and asymptomatic, while others manifest themselves in the form of very serious disorders. Let’s examine the causes, risk factors and treatments for this pathology.

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • Cause of tuberculosis 
  • Symptoms of tuberculosis
  • Risk factors for tuberculosis
  • Treatment of tuberculosis

Introduction

TB is a very serious infectious disease caused by a Gram variable bacteria, the Mycobacterium Tuberculosis , also known as Koch’s bacillus , named after its discoverer.  Tuberculosis is transmitted by air via droplets of saliva that can be emitted with a cough , a sneeze, or even just speaking at close range. Today this disease remains a leading cause of death worldwide , particularly in poor countries. 

Clinically, therefore, different forms are distinguished:

  • primary tuberculosis, which occurs following the first contact between mycobacterium tuberculosis and man by air, with localization of Koch’s bacillus at the level of the lung parenchyma.
  • post-primary tuberculosis, which also occurs several years after primary tuberculosis. In most cases it is an endogenous reinfection, that is to say a re-ignition of silent foci, which, at first, did not cause any type of disturbance.

Causes of tuberculosis 

TB is due to Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, an aerobic bacterium, not encapsulated, positive for Gram stain once identified in the laboratory but not always, because it responds to some characteristics related to its cell wall . 

The latter is in fact mainly composed of lipids , such as fatty acids, waxes and phosphates, divided into different layers.  This peculiarity makes the growth of bacterial replication rather slow. The bacterium is resistant to acids and alcohol, detergents, disinfectants, drying, antigens and even antibiotics.  

Koch’s bacillus typically develops its infectious form in the lungs , but it can also reach other areas such as bones , eyes , brain , kidneys , skin , circulatory system and lymphatic system.

In the case of pulmonary tuberculosis, the bacterium insinuates itself into the alveoli , where it implements its strategies to survive the complex defense mechanisms of macrophages and replicate. 

The immune system is thus stimulated with the activation of T lymphocytes and macrophages. Tubercle-shaped granulomas are formed which have the function of creating a barrier against the spread of the pathogen in the rest of the body . Koch’s bacilli thus remain trapped and can be inactivated.  

Symptoms of tuberculosis

There is a form of inactive tuberculosis in which one comes into contact with the bacilli, which however are immediately countered by the immune system. It heals without aftermath, without special therapies but also without developing symptoms . However, the bacteria remain in the body , but in a latent condition that does not cause contagion. The active TB disease is rather high transmissibility and leads to the appearance of very serious symptoms:

  • weight loss and lack of appetite ;
  • fever ;
  • night sweats;
  • fatigue ;
  • persistent cough with hemoptysis (presence of blood in the sputum);
  • chest pain when breathing. 

Risk factors for tuberculosis

This pathology is insidious for anyone, but there are subjects who are more at risk  because they are affected by other pathologies that involve the delicate and complex mechanisms of the immune system. This category includes  diabetics, autoimmune people, immunosuppressed  people or those who have to resort to immunosuppressive drugs. 

Those who spend long periods of time in closed and overcrowded spaces , not exposed to direct light or air changes , can also be particularly exposed. 

Must Read: Histoplasmosis – an infectious fungal disease

Treatment of tuberculosis

Tuberculosis can be cured through a complex of drugs whose active ingredients work in synergy. Given the recurrence of the disease, remission times can be very long (even beyond 18 months). Despite the great progress made by scientific research, in fact, the disease can develop resistance and be very difficult to eradicate.  Prevention is entrusted to a vaccine called BCG vaccine, obtained from strains of Mycobacterium Bovis.

Medical Remedies

The medical remedies for tuberculosis require that the patient be subjected to drug therapy for the purpose. It must be said that there is also a vaccine against TB, which in many states is mandatory. It has proven particularly effective for children.  

In the event of a positive tuberculin test, it is necessary to contact a specialist ( infectious disease specialist ) after consulting a general physician . It must also be said that the specialist to turn to in case of infantile tuberculosis is the pediatrician, who will develop an ad hoc therapy.

Drugs

The drugs for tuberculosis belong to the category of antibiotics, rifampicin, ethambutol , pyrazinamide, and isoniazid. However, this antibiotic treatment is increasingly encountering bacterial resistance, which is the phenomenon by which the bacillus is able to resist the activity of the drug. In this case, one opts for therapy based on second-line drugs , much more expensive and characterized by a greater number of side effects.

Natural Remedies

The natural remedies for tuberculosis should only be considered as a support to drug therapy. Regarding the diet, it is essential that it contains foods rich in proteins (fish, eggs, meat, dairy products), fresh fruit, salads and citrus fruits. 

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