- It is estimated that in 2014, approximately 9.6 million people around the world contracted tuberculosis (TB). Of that total, an estimated 5.4 million were men, 3.2 were women, and 1.0 million were children.
- India has the largest proportion of these cases by far (23%), followed by China and Indonesia (each at 10%).
- Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis which most often attacks the lungs, however other organs and parts of the body can sometimes be impacted as well.
- There are two strains of the tuberculosis bacteria:
- The first is called latent TB infection, and this occurs when the bacteria is present in a person’s body but doesn’t make them sick or cause symptoms. In addition, someone with latent TB cannot spread the bacteria.
- The second is called TB disease, and it typically arises if a person has a weak or compromised immune system which is unable to prevent the bacteria from multiplying and spreading. It is from this strain of tuberculosis that spreading of the bacteria to other individuals occurs.
- Both strains require treatment either to prevent latent TB from turning into TB disease or to prevent TB disease from spreading and causing more harm.
- A vaccine for tuberculosis does exist (called Bacille Calmette-Guérin or BCG) however it is not always completely effective in preventing someone from contracting TB. As such, it is not widely used in developed countries and is usually only given to those who are in most vulnerable aged groups, such as infants and young children.
- Because of their compromised immune systems, individuals with HIV are much more likely to either contract tuberculosis or have a latent TB infection develop into the harsher TB disease. This coinfection relationship is part of why TB is one of the leading causes of death for individuals with HIV.
- Despite their intricate relationship, HIV and tuberculosis are completely separate diseases. An individual with HIV will only develop TB if they have come into close contact with someone with the bacteria. Conversely, a TB patient will only contract HIV if they are similarly exposed to the virus via an HIV-spreading means.
- The tuberculosis bacteria is spread mostly by air, however on its own air travel poses a low risk for infection spread. It is typically through prolonged exposure or close contact among individuals or groups with TB that spreading occurs.
- Treatment for tuberculosis is available and occurs through a patient beginning a strict regimen of drugs to be taken for approximately 6 – 9 months. Like many prescription medicines, it is crucial that the drugs are taken exactly as prescribed and the regimen be finished completely. Failure to do so has contributed to the increasingly pressing problem of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria, which is significantly more difficult and expensive to treat and cure.
- Because the treatment drugs for tuberculosis do little to interrupt the spreading of the bacteria between individuals TB prevention is another important aspects of this disease. Prevention strategies typically entail identifying individuals with active TB so they can be quickly treated and thus mitigate the risk of their spreading the bacteria onwards. Another aspect of prevention involves identifying individuals with latent TB so they can receive treatment before it develops into the more aggressive and contagious strain.
- Just as important to prevention strategies is the need for increased public awareness of the risks of tuberculosis and what can be done on a personal basis for individuals to prevent themselves and their families from contracting the disease, to help them to better identify the symptoms, and to learn the importance of receiving medical attention and treatment.
Interested in finding out more about how Blossom Trust is working to ensure crucial treatment, prevention, and awareness of tuberculosis occurs? Follow the links above to see some of our current projects and programs. If you like what you see, show your support for the cause by making a secure donation or reach out to us for one of our many volunteer opportunities.
Sources (numbered by fact #):
(1) “Global Tuberculosis Report 2015.” Page 2. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/tb/publications/global_report/gtbr2015_executive_summary.pdf?ua=1 (accessed July 13th, 2016).
(2) “Global Tuberculosis Report 2015.” Page 3. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/tb/publications/global_report/gtbr2015_executive_summary.pdf?ua=1 (accessed July 13th, 2016).
(3) “Basic TB Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/default.htm (accessed July 13th, 2016).
(4) “Latent TB Infection and TB Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/tbinfectiondisease.htm (accessed July 13th, 2016).
(5) “Vaccines.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/vaccines.htm (accessed July 13th, 2016).
(6) “TB and HIV Coinfection” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/tbhivcoinfection.htm (accessed July 13th, 2016).
(7) “TB and HIV – Co-infection, diagnosis, and treatment.” TBFACTS.ORG. http://www.tbfacts.org/tb-hiv/ (accessed July 13th, 2016).
(8) “TB Prevention.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/tbprevention.htm (accessed July 13th, 2016).
(9) “Treatment for TB Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/treatment/tbdisease.htm (accessed July 13th, 2016).
(10 and 11) “TB Prevention – Vaccine, drug treatment, isolation.” TBFACTS.ORG http://www.tbfacts.org/tb-prevention/ (accessed July 13th, 2016).