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Tuberculosis can be a difficult disease to diagnose, due mainly to the difficulty in culturing this slow-growing organism in the laboratory. A complete medical evaluation for TB must include a medical history, a chest X-ray, and a physical examination. Tuberculosis radiology is used in the diagnosis of TB. It may also include a tuberculin skin test, a serological test, microbiological smears and cultures. The interpretation of the tuberculin skin test depends upon the person's risk factors for infection and progression to TB disease, such as exposure to other cases of TB or immunosuppression.

Currently, latent infection is diagnosed in a non-immunized person by a tuberculin skin test, which yields a delayed hypersensitivity type response to purified protein derivatives of M. tuberculosis. Those immunized for TB or with past-cleared infection will respond with delayed hypersensitivity parallel to those currently in a state of infection and thus the test must be used with caution, particularly with regard to persons from countries where TB immunization is common. New TB tests are being developed that offer the hope of cheap, fast and more accurate TB testing. These use polymerase chain reaction detection of bacterial DNA and antibody assays to detect the release of interferon gamma in response to mycobacteria. Rapid and inexpensive diagnosis will be particularly valuable in the developing world.




Progression from TB infection to TB disease occurs when the TB bacilli overcome the immune system defenses and begin to multiply. In primary TB disease—1 to 5% of cases—this occurs soon after infection. However, in the majority of cases, a latent infection occurs that has no obvious symptoms. These dormant bacilli can produce tuberculosis in 2 to 23% of these latent cases, often many years after infection.The risk of reactivation increases with immunosuppression, such as that caused by infection with HIV. In patients co-infected with M. tuberculosis and HIV, the risk of reactivation increases to 10% per year.

Other conditions that increase risk include drug injection, mainly due to the lifestyle of IV drug users; recent TB infection or a history of inadequately treated TB; chest X-ray suggestive of previous TB, showing fibrotic lesions and nodules; diabetes mellitus; silicosis; prolonged corticosteroid therapy and other immunosuppressive therapy; head and neck cancers; hematologic and reticuloendothelial diseases, such as leukemia and Hodgkin's disease; end-stage kidney disease; intestinal bypass or gastrectomy; chronic malabsorption syndromes; or low body weight.

Twin studies in the 1950's showed that the course of TB infection was highly dependent on the genetics of the patient. At that time, it was rare that one identical twin would die and the other live.

Some drugs, including rheumatoid arthritis drugs that work by blocking tumor necrosis factor-alpha(an inflammation-causing cytokine, raise the risk of activating a latent infection due to the importance of this cytokine in the immune defense against TB. http://www.wikipedia.org