Skip directly to content

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection caused by a germ called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but they can also damage other parts of the body. TB spreads through the air when a person with TB of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes or talks. If you have been exposed, you should go to your doctor for tests. You are more likely to get TB if you have a weak immune system.

Symptoms of TB in the lungs may include:

  • A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing up blood or mucus
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Night sweats

Treatment is difficult and requires long courses of multiple antibiotics. Contacts are also screened and treated if necessary. If not treated properly, TB can be deadly. You can usually cure active TB by taking several medicines for a long period of time. People with latent TB can take medicine so that they do not develop active TB. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in (extensively) multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. Prevention relies on screening programs and vaccination, usually with BCG vaccine.