The return of tuberculosis - what do you need to know?

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The return of tuberculosis - what do you need to know?


Cough in a child

There are diseases that are said to be 'extinct' or only appear in so-called Third World countries. One such disease was tuberculosis, considered to be a disease entity that appears sporadically in our country. Unfortunately, this is no longer true, and tuberculosis cases are being reported with increasing frequency.


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 9 million people are diagnosed with TB each year! As WHO representatives point out, despite increasingly effective prevention in the fight against TB, there will not be a country in the world that is completely free of the disease in 2035.

Where tuberculosis comes from

Tuberculosis is a disease that has been with humans since time immemorial. Tubercle bacilli have been found in mummies more than 8 000 years old. The scientist who first detected and described the tubercle bacillus was Robert Koch. Although more than 150 years have passed since the discovery of mycobacteria, the disease is still considered a global threat, as confirmed by numerous WHO communications. Poland belongs to countries with a so-called low incidence of tub erculosis (i.e. less than 20 cases per 100,000 population). Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Myvobacterium bovis and Mycobacterium africanum . In the 20th century, the BCG (Bacillus Clamette - Guerin) vaccine came on the market to protect against tuberculosis infection. The vaccine reduces the incidence of severe tuberculosis and is therefore still used today. In Poland, mandatory vaccination against tuberculosis was introduced in 1955.

Symptoms of tuberculosis

Tuberculosis may not produce any symptoms, or the symptoms that do appear are of a general nature, so that it is often confused with other disease entities. The most common symptoms include night sweats, fever, cough that persists for more than three weeks, chest pain, shortness of breath, sudden weight loss and weakness.

Types of tuberculosis

In the literature, a distinction is made between so-called primary tuberculosis (which develops after initial mycobacterial infection) and post-primary tuberculosis (the result of reactivation of tuberculosis years later). In terms of the classification of the site of disease development, a distinction is made between pulmonary tuberculosis and extrapulmonary tuberculosis (lymph nodes, pleura, miliary, genitourinary, reproductive organs, bones, joints, digestive system).

photo: panthermedia

Sources of infection and characteristics of mycobacteria

Tuberculosis is classified as a bacterial infectious disease. Mycobacteria, the bacteria that cause the disease, are extremely resistant to drying out and can therefore survive for many months in, for example, dust particles. High temperatures and UV radiation effectively kill mycobacteria. The source of infection is the secretions of the sick person - e.g. sputum or urine. TB patients excrete mycobacteria with coughing, sneezing and talking. Importantly, a patient who is 'mycobacterial' is able to infect 15 people in a year! Another route of infection is the oral route - here the mycobacteria carrier is primarily unpasteurised milk from TB cows.