An overview of tuberculosis

Icon Health Screening / 23 Dec, 2019

What is tuberculosis?What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis occurs in every part of the world. In 2018 an estimated 10 million people fell ill with tuberculosis (TB) worldwide, with cases in all countries and age groups.

How is tuberculosis transmitted?How is it transmitted?

Tuberculosis, better known as TB, is an air-borne disease transmitted through fine respiratory droplets from an infected person.

It usually affects the lungs (pulmonary tuberculosis), but other parts of the body can also be affected (extrapulmonary tuberculosis) such as the brain, lymph nodes, kidneys, bones, and joints.

It is transmitted through the air, not by surface contact.

Tuberculosis is typically spread through close and prolonged contact with an infectious individual, and not by contact with items or surfaces touched by a person with TB.

A person cannot get TB from sharing cups, eating utensils, food or cigarettes. TB is not spread by shaking someone’s hand, kissing, touching bed linens or toilet seats.

Symptoms of tuberculosisSymptoms of tuberculosis

Symptoms of tuberculosis include:

  • A persistent cough that lasts three weeks or longer
  • Low-grade fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood or sputum

Vaccination is importantTuberculosis vaccination

Vaccination reduces the risk of active TB by about 50 percent. When given to newborns and infants, it appears to confer protection in about 80 percent of cases. The greatest benefit of vaccination for TB appears to be the reduced risk of tuberculous meningitis and disseminated disease in children (75 to 86 percent efficacy).

Screening tests for tuberculosisScreening tests

Screening and diagnosis of TB involves a number of tests, such as:

  • Medical consult (to determine high risk group)
  • Skin testing (Mantoux test)
  • Blood testing, interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs)
  • CXR (to rule out active TB disease)
  • Sputum sample and culture (if a cough is present)

Treatment for tuberculosisTreatment

Anti-TB drugs are available for treatment of the disease.

  • More than 95% of people with active TB are cured if they take all medications as prescribed.
  • Completion of treatment ensures that TB is cured and prevents development of multi-drug resistant TB infection


For a full list of references, click here.
  1. Ministry of Health Singapore. (2019). Tuberculosis. Retrieved on 19 December 2019 from
  2. Health Hub. (2019). Tuberculosis. Retrieved on 19 December 2019 from
  3. World Health Organization. (2019). Tuberculosis. Retrieved on 19 December 2019 from
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