Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Mycobacterium tuberculosis also known as the hardy Koch bacillus has been on the planet for thousands of years. The first person recorded to having been killed by this bacterial infection was a European about seven thousand years ago. Several ancient writings from the Babylonian era and Egypt mention this ancient disease.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis affects the lungs primarily but it also can affect the lymph nodes, intestinal tract, kidneys, brain and bones. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is called TB for short. This is a very contagious infection that can spread to others and lead to death if not treated properly.

Healthy people can become infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis when they live and work around someone who is already infected. The Koch bacillus is transmitted by coughing or sneezing. The germs become airborne and then others inhale them and become infected. TB is not transmitted by simply touching an infected person.

There is another form of TB that is transmitted by drinking un-pasteurized milk. This kind is called Mycobacterium bovis. When milk is pasteurized the heating process kills off the bacteria. Another way to become infected is by getting tattoos where the instruments have not been adequately sanitized. Laboratory workers who work around and handle the TB germ can become infected if the germs come into contact with a skin lesion.

People who are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis experience prolonged periods of coughing, night sweats, chest pains, fever and loss of appetite. When the bacillus germ infects the lungs it causes a local infection, which then lead to the lymphatic system becoming enlarged. The infection is then spread throughout the entire body via the lymphatic system and internal organs become infected as well. If a person has a healthy immune system it can usually stop the spread of infection. If stopped, scar tissue will be built up around the infected area. At this point the TB infection is inactive, but if the person’s immune system ever gets becomes weakened the TB germs can pass by the scar tissue and continue to spread.

Because of the development of the BCG vaccine many countries have been able to vaccinate children to protect them and prevent the spread of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. However, the bacillus germ has not been completely eradicated and the World Health Organization declared Mycobacterium tuberculosis to be a global emergency in 1993. Today, there are around 8 million people who get infected with TB. The fear is that if it is not checked soon it can lead to 35 million people being killed by it within the next two decades.

People nowadays are treated for Mycobacterium tuberculosis with various combinations of multiple drugs that include rifampin, isoniazid, ethambutol and rifampin. Once infected with TB it can take up to six months to be cured of it.

A diagnosis for Mycobacterium tuberculosis is done by doing a skin test. The person is given a purified protein under the skin that can detect if the person has been exposed to TB. If the person has been exposed, the skin test area will become an enlarged papule after 48-72 hours. This is not a 100% fool proof test. If the skin test is positive the person then has to have their sputum or other bodily fluids tested for the Mycobacterium tuberculosis germ. After that a chest X-ray is done to detect pulmonary scarring. All three tests must show significant signs to diagnose the person with TB.

People who have been positively diagnosed with TB may be quarantined for a few days up to a few weeks or until your doctor knows that you are no longer contagious. The patient may be confined either in a hospital or at home until then.

Last updated on Jan 14th, 2010 and filed under Respiratory Diseases. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Response for “Mycobacterium tuberculosis”

  1. caroline collett says:

    In the 1900’s there was 8 million affected. The world health program has predicted it rising Which country is most affected (not googled yet) and are these medicines easily available?

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