TB Awareness Month

March 2024 is TB Awareness month in South Africa and 24 March is World TB Day.

Five (5) quick facts about TB or tuberculosis

  1. A bacterium, called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, cause Tuberculosis (TB).
  2. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain.
  3. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. TB bacteria can live in the body without making you sick.  This is called latent TB infection.  In most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing.  People with latent TB infection have no symptoms, don’t feel sick and can’t spread TB bacteria to others.  TB disease is when the immune system can’t stop the TB bacteria from growing, and the TB bacteria are active (multiplying in your body).  People with TB disease is sick.  They may also be able to spread the bacteria to people they spend time with every day.
  4. Without treatment latent TB infection can progress to TB disease. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.
  5. TB is preventable and curable.

Treatment of tuberculosis

With early detection and appropriate antibiotics, TB is treatable.  The right type of antibiotic and length of treatment will depend on:

  • The person’s age and overall health.
  • It they have latent or active TB.
  • The location of the infection.
  • If the strain of TB is drug resistant.

It is essential for people to complete the full course of treatment, even if symptoms go away.  If a person stops taking their medication early, some bacteria can survive and become resistant to antibiotics.  In this case, the person may go on to develop drug-resistant TB.

Drug-resistant TB

The bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB) can develop resistance to the antimicrobial drugs used to cure the disease.  Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is TB that does not respond to at least isoniazid and rifampicin, the 2 most powerful anti-TB drugs.  The good news is that your health practitioner can test for drug resistance and prescribe an alternative product to cure your TB.