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The 20th century has witnessed a lot in the medical field. The coming into existence of deadly diseases and the escalation of the already existing epidemics, to name but a few, are some of the key characteristics of this century. One such disease that has caused much suffering to the human race is Tuberculosis whose rates of infection have greatly increased ever since it was discovered in the late 19th century.
Tuberculosis was also known as TB is a disease that mostly affects the lungs. The infection is known in scientific terms as tubercle bacillus is a deadly disease caused by a mycobacteria infection most commonly the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MedicineNet, 1996)). The bacteria was first isolated by a German named Robert Koch in 1882. Though it affects the lungs it is not uncommon for it to attack the central nervous system, lymphatic system, reproduction system, and circulatory system. The disease can also be caused by other mycobacteria like Mycobacterium bovis and Mycobacterium Canetti. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a third of the world is currently under the scourge of this disease. WHO further estimates that the disease is being transmitted at the rate of one person per second.
Material and methods
The bacteria that causes TB is very contagious as is easily transmitted via air. For instance, when an infected person coughs or sneezes the disease-causing bacteria is transmitted to any person who inhales the air potent with the bacteria. On average if left untreated a carrier will infect twelve people in a year. The TB bacteria generally weakens the immune system of its patient thus making them more prone to other infections.
When the inhaled bacteria enter the lungs, they multiply and cause lung infection for example pneumonia. It may also attack the lymph nodes associated with the lungs and thus inflaming them. The bacteria may further spread to other parts of the body. The body’s immune mechanism can and often does fight the infection and stop its progression. The immune system does this by isolating the bacteria from the body. This it does by forming scar tissue around the TB bacteria. The isolation ensures the bacteria stays in an inactive state and thus containing its activities. Such individuals exhibit no symptoms and cannot spread TB. The process of calcification makes the scars harder and the scars appear as small, round stones referred to as granuloma.
TB is a very common infection as it records over seven million new cases in one calendar year. It is quite true that anyone can be attacked by bacteria. But certain situations make one more vulnerable to the bacteria. First being in constant with persons who are infected makes one more vulnerable for example nursing a TB patient. Secondly, living in unhealthy conditions for example poor and homeless people generally weakens your immune system leaving you vulnerable.
Next, people born in countries with a high prevalence of TB are generally more prone to TB infection. Furthermore, drug addicts and alcoholics are more prone as they have a weakened immune system and often have bad eating habits. It has further been shown that being infected with certain diseases for instance HIV or diabetes increases the risk of infection.
The immune system can only hold the bacteria in its inactive state for some time after which the bacteria, having reproduced in the inactive state, overwhelm the system. The time after which the immune system becomes susceptible is determined by the health condition of the patient. The symptoms of a TB infection include infection general body weakness, loss of weight and appetite, and sweating at night. As the conditions worsen, the patient starts to experience chest pains, coughing, and at times coughing up sputum and blood, and shortness of breath. As the disease spreads further to other organs the affected organ will show signs of infection.
The infection is diagnosed in varied ways which include chest x-rays, analysis of sputum, and skin tests. The chest x-rays can either show scarring, calcification or reveal evidence of tuberculosis pneumonia. The presence of the Tuberculosis causing bacteria in a patient can be tested by viewing his/her sputum on a smear slide under a microscope. Bacteria in the mycobacteria family stain positive with special dyes that is the AFB. A culture of the sputum sample is usually made to ease the identification of the specific bacteria type.
Results and Discussion
Several studies were taken after the initial discovery of the TB bacteria which led to the discovery of Bacille Calmette Guerin also referred to as BCG. This is a vaccine administered throughout the world. Though it is derived from a mycobacterium it provides protection from developing active tuberculosis, especially in infants and children. It should be noted with great concern that BCG is quite effective at the childhood stage of development but as an adult one can still be infected if exposed to the bacteria.
Once a person has been diagnosed to be suffering from TB he is put under antibiotics. This is so for the patient who is deemed to have the disease in its inactive state. The antibiotics commonly used are (INH) and are taken for a period of up to one year and their main working mechanism is to prevent TB from turning active. On the other hand, active TB can only be treated by a combination of medication administered along with antibiotics. The common drugs used include Rifadin and Myambutol. To kill the bacteria four drugs are taken in the first two months, this is then reduced to two for the remainder of the treatment period. Streptomycin is an injection administered to persons with poor compliance. Success in the treatment of TB depends on the patient’s compliance and may take a long period of time.
In the recent past, the medical world has witnessed the emergence of a new strain of TB that is drug-resistant. This has been attributed to the presence of TB treating substances in common medication like cough syrup. Cases of drug resistance lead to the complication of the treatment process as such patients show a very small degree of compliance. Multi-drug resistance is a term used to refer to the resistance to more than one first-line drug like INH. WHO has advised on the improvement in the administration of basic TB care to curb the emergence of new drug resistance cases that are very expensive to treat.
It is common knowledge that HIV/AIDS and TB are closely related. This is due to their opportunistic nature and thus they can easily be mistaken for one another as they even share symptoms. It is also true that the infection by either TB or AIDS makes one more prone to the other as they weaken the body’s defense mechanism.
It was earlier thought that with treatment and vaccination TB would have been history by 2000. The emergence of the AIDS virus in the ’80s brought a new dimension to the fight against this epidemic. Currently, it is more effective to prevent TB by vaccinating and keeping of situations that may place you at a higher risk of contracting the disease, than it is to treat the disease. The future of TB prevention lies in preventive measures rather than curative measures.
Medicine Net (1996) Tuberculosis. Web.