Stigma is attached to tuberculosis (TB), and India is currently on the cusp of the silent killer. The country accounts for one-fifth of the total TB burden in the world. A contagious disease significantly affecting the lungs, the condition is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The highly contagious disease spreads while coughing, sneezing, and spitting. Tiny droplets of germs get mixed in the air, and a healthy person, while breathing it in, can get infected when the germs enter the lungs.


TB can quickly spread in crowded places. People with weak immune systems, HIV/AIDs infected patients, have a possibility of contracting the disease.


There are seven forms of TB, and these are TB lymphadenitis, Skeletal TB, Miliary TB, Genitourinary TB, Liver TB, Gastrointestinal TB, TB meningitis, and TB peritonitis.



People contracting TB may encounter low fever, tiredness, cough, and persistent colds. This is also known as primary infection. The other form is latent TB. Active TB infection occurs when an individual’s immune system fails to counter the germs, which arises after months/years of someone infected with latent TB infection. Symptoms may get severe, with blood in cough and mucus, constant fever, chills, weight loss, chest pain, etc. In the case of TB infection spreading from the lungs to other parts of the body, it is known as extrapulmonary tuberculosis. TB can spread to other organs apart from the lungs, such as kidneys, liver, genitals, lymph nodes, voice box, bones and joints, etc.


Children and adults are susceptible to TB, and the above symptoms of fever associated with weight loss are prevalent.



A TB skin test and TB blood test are the most standard forms to detect TB; however, other forms of testing are also required to detect the disease. A positive result leading to latent TB infection depends on whether there is a formation of a bump of a specific size when a substance called tuberculin is injected to detect TB. The positive test mentions whether one is suffering from a latent TB infection or an active TB disease. A chest X-ray can show uneven or odd patches in the lungs that are typical of active TB disease. A sputum test is also recommended to ensure whether a person suffers from TB.



Latent TB cases can be treated for three to four months, followed by active cases between six and nine months. TB drugs in the form of antibiotics are available in the market and, in many cases, lead to side effects. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is administered to TB patients as Mycobacterium bovis is used to prevent TB and other mycobacterial infections.



Drug resistance TB

Reports have emerged on drug-resistant TB, which is a matter of concern for the health fraternity and patients alike. Treatment of drug-resistant TB takes a longer time than treating drug-susceptible tuberculosis.


The future

While the World Health Organisation has set a goal to end the TB epidemic by 2030, the Indian government has set it by 2025. Proper diet and keeping malnutrition at bay will help TB patients and prevent the disease from spreading. Integrating artificial intelligence and digital technology will aid in treating multi-drug-resistant TB in the long run. A shorter and more effective, viable treatment option to treat TB is the need of the hour.