What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is bacteria that infects the lungs of a patient. Normally, TB affects the lungs but can also affect the brain, kidneys, or the spine. TB can stay hidden in the body and a person won’t show signs until later in the future. There are three stages of TB which include primary, latent, and secondary/active. TB is spread when a person comes into contact with someone else who has TB, and it is contracted through inhaled droplets. TB can be contracted by sneezing, coughing, or even laughing.

What Are Symptoms of Tuberculosis?

Symptoms of TB include sickness, weakness, weight loss, fever, night sweats, coughing, chest pain, and coughing up blood. If someone is experiencing these symptoms and has recently come into contact with an individual with TB, that individual should be tested for TB. Letting TB go undiagnosed and untreated can be very harmful and be even more severe later.

Tuberculosis Testing

There are two different ways that TB is tested. One way that TB is tested is by using a skin test. The needle is inserted into the forearm and a liquid known as tuberculin is placed under the skin. After 48-72 hours, you can return to the healthcare provider, and the results are read. Another way that TB is tested is by doing TB-related blood work. Blood is collected from the patient and is observed in a lab. If the test comes up positive, it means that the person has been infected with TB. Neither of the tests will tell you if the disease has progressed. Further testing will be needed.

Difference between Latent TB and TB

Having the active TB disease means that the individual is sick with the disease and experiencing symptoms. The TB is spreading and destroying causing symptoms. A person with latent TB carries the disease, but the germs are not active. Later in life, these germs might activate and cause sickness. Healthcare providers will prescribe medication to prevent TB from getting to that point.

How is TB treated?

TB is treated by a combination of antibacterial medications used for a period of 6 to 12 months.

There are four antibiotics that are used to treat TB. In latent TB, only two antibiotics are typically used. Drug-resistant TB means that some drugs initially used to treat TB will no longer be able to fight the TB in your body. This treatment takes around 20 to 30 months to complete, and most medications cause more side effects.

Written By:

Furkan Amin
PharmD Candidate 2025
Philadelphia College of Pharmacy
St. Joseph’s University


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