4 Things You Should Know About Tuberculosis

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease which is caused by the slow growing bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It primarily affects the lungs and this disease occurs when the bacterias enter the lungs and walls of into granulomas in the lungs. It causes infections and after a few weeks of the infections, it leads to the development of tuberculosis. It is an airborne disease which spreads through a cough, spit and sneeze. Lungs are the most affected part but it can also affect other parts of the body such as the brain, kidneys or the spine. Tuberculosis is basically of two types, active tuberculosis, and latent tuberculosis. Active tuberculosis is a tuberculosis disease which is contagious and is transmitted from an infected person. Latent tuberculosis is a state in which a person is infected by Mycobacterium tuberculosis without having an evidence of active tuberculosis. It is also known as latent tuberculosis infection. This type of tuberculosis is not contagious and therefore it is not transmitted from a person having latent tuberculosis. Only a few patients having this type of tuberculosis has chances of developing active tuberculosis.

Causes of tuberculosis

According to the studies, Mycobacterium tuberculosis is carried in the airborne particles which are known as droplet nuclei. An infection occurs when a person inhales droplet nuclei and reaches the alveoli of the lungs. Droplet nuclei contain tubercle bacilli and when tubercle bacilli enter the bloodstream and are spread throughout the body and within few weeks, macrophages which are special immune cells surround them. These cells form a barrier shell which is known as granuloma and it keeps the tubercle bacilli under control. But when the immune system fails to keep tubercle bacilli under control, it multiplies and causes tuberculosis. As per researchers, people are more likely to develop tuberculosis when

  • People who recently came in exposure to those who are diagnosed with tuberculosis.  
  • People who live in the area where tuberculosis is common.  
  • People who are health care workers and often came in contact with patients having tuberculosis.
  • People who have the weak immune system are more likely to develop this disease.
  • Infection occurs more often in people who have HIV or those who smoke.

Symptoms of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis can affect any part of the body and when it affects the lungs it is known as pulmonary tuberculosis and when it affects an organ outside the lungs, it is known as extrapulmonary tuberculosis. Symptoms that are involved with pulmonary tuberculosis are chest pain, a prolonged cough that produces sputum and in the rare cases, a person can experience a cough with blood. Extrapulmonary tuberculosis is common in children and people who have the weak immune system. More than 50% of the cases of extrapulmonary tuberculosis are of those who suffer from HIV.  Some of the symptoms that are common for almost everyone who has tuberculosis include

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Night Sweats
  • A cough that lasts for more than three weeks
  • Low grade fever

There are tests that can help you detect tuberculosis infection and two of the tests include a skin test and tuberculosis blood test The tuberculosis blood test helps in measuring how the immune system reacts with the tuberculosis germs. The positive test means that the person is infected.

Role of Vitamin D in treating tuberculosis

Deficiency of vitamin D has been seen in the patients who are suffering from tuberculosis and a high dose of vitamin D is used to treat this disease. Also, vitamin D is known to suppress the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. According to one study, an improvement was seen in the children with tuberculosis after the vitamin D treatment and the supplements of vitamin D also resulted in rapid sputum clearance of bacilli. Also, the deficiency of vitamin D can be the reason for defective macrophage functions.

In the survival of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in the human macrophages, the tryptophan aspartate containing coat proteins plays an important role. Vitamin D combines with retinoic acid and downregulates tryptophan aspartate containing coat proteins and inhibits the entry of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and its survival in the macrophages.


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