Saturday, February 18, 2017

Basics of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms; in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those infected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. The historical term "consumption" came about due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Tuberculosis is spread through the air when people who have active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze. People with latent TB do not spread the disease. Active infection occurs more often in people with HIV/AIDS and in those who smoke. Diagnosis of active TB is based on chest X-rays, as well as microscopic examination and culture of body fluids. Diagnosis of latent TB relies on the tuberculin skin test (TST) or blood tests.

Prevention of TB involves screening those at high risk, early detection and treatment of cases, and vaccination with the bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine. Those at high risk include household, workplace, and social contacts of people with active TB. Treatment requires the use of multiple antibiotics over a long period of time. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem with increasing rates of multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

One-third of the world's population is thought to be infected with TB. New infections occur in about 1% of the population each year. In 2014, there were 9.6 million cases of active TB which resulted in 1.5 million deaths. More than 95% of deaths occurred in developing countries. The number of new cases each year has decreased since 2000. About 80% of people in many Asian and African countries test positive while 5–10% of people in the United States population tests positive by the tuberculin test. Tuberculosis has been present in humans since ancient times.

Risk Factors

A number of factors make people more susceptible to TB infections. The most important risk factor globally is HIV; 13% of all people with TB are infected by the virus. This is a particular problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where rates of HIV are high. Of people without HIV who are infected with tuberculosis, about 5–10% develop active disease during their lifetimes; in contrast, 30% of those coinfected with HIV develop the active disease.

Tuberculosis is closely linked to both overcrowding and malnutrition, making it one of the principal diseases of poverty. Those at high risk thus include: people who inject illicit drugs, inhabitants and employees of locales where vulnerable people gather (e.g. prisons and homeless shelters), medically underprivileged and resource-poor communities, high-risk ethnic minorities, children in close contact with high-risk category patients, and health-care providers serving these patients.

Chronic lung disease is another significant risk factor. Silicosis increases the risk about 30-fold. Those who smoke cigarettes have nearly twice the risk of TB compared to nonsmokers.

Other disease states can also increase the risk of developing tuberculosis. These include alcoholism and diabetes mellitus (three-fold increase).

Certain medications, such as corticosteroids and infliximab (an anti-αTNF monoclonal antibody), are becoming increasingly important risk factors, especially in the developed world.

Genetic susceptibility also exists, for which the overall importance remains undefined.

Medication Resistance

Primary resistance occurs when a person becomes infected with a resistant strain of TB. A person with fully susceptible MTB may develop secondary (acquired) resistance during therapy because of inadequate treatment, not taking the prescribed regimen appropriately (lack of compliance), or using low-quality medication. Drug-resistant TB is a serious public health issue in many developing countries, as its treatment is longer and requires more expensive drugs. MDR-TB is defined as resistance to the two most effective first-line TB drugs: rifampicin and isoniazid. Extensively drug-resistant TB is also resistant to three or more of the six classes of second-line drugs. Totally drug-resistant TB is resistant to all currently used drugs. It was first observed in 2003 in Italy, but not widely reported until 2012, and has also been found in Iran and India. Bedaquiline is tentatively supported for use in multiple drug-resistant TB.

XDR-TB is a term sometimes used to define extensively resistant TB, and constitutes one in ten cases of MDR-TB. Cases of XDR TB have been identified in more than 90% of countries.

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