Tuberculosis (abbreviated as TB for tubercle bacillus or Tuberculosis) is a common and deadly infectious disease caused by mycobacteria mainly Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis most commonly attacks the lungs (as pulmonary TB) but can also affect the central nervous system, the lymphatic system, the circulatory system, the genitourinary system, bones, joints and even the . Other mycobacteria such as Mycobacterium bovis, Mycobacterium africanum, Mycobacterium canetti, and Mycobacterium microti can also cause tuberculosis, but these species do not usually infect healthy adults.
Over one-third of the world's population has been infected by the TB bacterium, and new infections occur at a rate of one per second. Not everyone infected develops the full-blown disease; asymptomatic, latent TB infection is most common. However, one in ten latent infections will progress to active TB disease, which, if left untreated, kills more than half of its victims.
In 2004, mortality and morbidity statistics included 14.6 million chronic active TB cases, 8.9 million new cases, and 1.6 million deaths, mostly in developing countries.
When the disease becomes active, 75% of the cases are pulmonary TB. Symptoms include chest pain, coughing up blood, and a productive, prolonged cough for more than three weeks. Systemic symptoms include fever, chills, night sweats, appetite loss, weight loss, pallor, and often a tendency to fatigue very easily.
In the other 25% of active cases, the infection moves from the lungs, causing other kinds of TB more common in immunosuppressed persons and young children. Extrapulmonary infection sites include the pleura, the central nervous system in meningitis, the lymphatic system in scrofula of the neck, the genitourinary system in urogenital tuberculosis, and bones and joints in Pott's disease of the spine. An especially serious form is disseminated TB, more commonly known as miliary tuberculosis. Although extrapulmonary TB is not contagious, it may co-exist with pulmonary TB, which is contagious
When people suffering from active pulmonary TB cough, sneeze, speak, kiss, or spit, they expel infectious aerosol< droplets 0.5 to 5 µm in diameter. A single sneeze, for instance, can release up to 40,000 droplets. Each one of these droplets may transmit the disease, since the infectious dose of tuberculosis is very low and the inhalation of just a single bacterium can cause a new infection.
People with prolonged, frequent, or intense contact are at particularly high risk of becoming infected, with an estimated 22% infection rate. A person with active but untreated tuberculosis can infect 10–15 other people per year.Others at risk include people in areas where TB is common, people who inject drugs using unsanitary needles, residents and employees of high-risk congregate settings, medically under-served and low-income populations, high-risk racial or ethnic minority populations, children exposed to adults in high-risk categories, patients immunocompromised by conditions such as HIV AIDS, people who take immunosuppressant drugs, and health care workers serving these high-risk clients.
Transmission can only occur from people with active—not latent—TB. The probability of transmission from one person to another depends upon the number of infectious droplets expelled by a carrier, the effectiveness of ventilation, the duration of exposure, and the virulence of the M. tuberculosisstrain. The chain of transmission can therefore be broken by isolating patients with active disease and starting effective anti-tuberculous therapy. After two weeks of such treatment, people with non-resistant active TB generally cease to be contagious.