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Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB)—Testing & Treatment

Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious infection caused by the specific bacterium, mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis commonly attacks the lungs, but one reason why tuberculosis is particularly dangerous is that it can infiltrate the spine, brain, and the kidney as well. There are two TB-related conditions—latent TB infection (LTBI) and TB disease. Tuberculosis is very treatable and in most cases can be cleared from the body wholly by antibiotics. Nonetheless, tuberculosis can be fatal if left untreated so it is a serious infection that should always be attended to immediately, to wit according to the World Health Organization (WHO), "In 2016, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB, and 1.7 million died from the disease."

How is Tuberculosis Spread?

Tuberculosis is an airborne infection, which makes it particularly communicable. As with a common cold or influenza, a tuberculosis carrier may spread the infection by talking, laughing, sneezing, or any other manner which involves opening and projecting from the mouth. When infectious bacteria is expelled from a carrier's mouth they float into the air and those in close proximity may breathe them in thus planting the infection within the new host. This sounds quite scary but the silver lining is that, in most cases, tuberculosis germs grow at an incredibly slow rate, so an errant cough from a stranger is not necessarily a reason to panic. Typically, tuberculosis is spread amongst people who have spent much time together, such as at work, or in the home, or with close friends.

Latent TB Infection and TB Disease—What's the Difference?

When tuberculosis is carried in the body but the carrier is not ill with tuberculosis disease this is called latent TB infection. Someone may breathe in infectious TB bacteria, but their immune system fights back and stops the bacteria from growing, so these people will not experience symptoms and will not be able to spread the infection to others. For many people this is the case—their bodies stop the infection from proceeding. However, if the body does not stop the growth and the tuberculosis bacteria begin to grow and thrive, the tuberculosis infection will transition to full tuberculosis disease. This is the substantiation for providing comprehensive treatment to anyone who has latent TB infection, to ensure that their infection never develops into full TB disease.

Symptoms & Signs

As tuberculosis can affect multiple areas of the human body, the symptoms can vary. Let's consider some of the body area specific symptoms.

Pulmonary TB

  • Intense Coughing (lasting 3 weeks or more)
  • Coughing Sputum (phlegm from the lungs)
  • Coughing Up Blood
  • Chest Pain

Other Area TB Symptoms

  • Weight Loss
  • Weakness or Fatigue
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Night Sweats

(NOTE: Symptoms of TB disease in parts of the body can vary. Talk to your doctor right away if you experience any symptoms that are concerning.)

TB Drugs

There are a handful of effective drugs that doctors prescribe for TB. Some of the more common are listed below. Your compounding pharmacist can craft drugs to combat your TB disease or to prevent it (in cases of latent TB infection).

  • Ethambutol
  • Streptomycin
  • Isoniazid
  • Rifampicin / Rifampin
  • Pyrazinamide
  • "It is rare to find health professionals who are so willing to educate the patient on what they need to know."

    Clair C. | West Hollywood, CA