Introduction to Tuberculosis

Coughing. Trouble Breathing. Fatigue. Night Sweats. These are all symptoms that are characteristic of tuberculosis disease. In this article, we will examine the 4 “W’s” of tuberculosis – who, what, when and where.

Who can get the tuberculosis disease?

Because tuberculosis is an airborne spread disease, this means that you can be infected with the disease if you have been in contact with someone known to have the disease. The infectious person can spread the disease by coughing or sneezing in the same air as you. Tuberculosis disease more commonly infects adults than children.

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. When the bacteria attack the host’s cells, immune cells cannot keep up and attack the growing bacteria, allowing the disease to spread.

There are two types of tuberculosis – latent tuberculosis infection and tuberculosis disease. The majority of this article discusses tuberculosis disease. That is, the type of tuberculosis that has symptoms and requires treatment. On the other hand, a latent tuberculosis infection means that you have been exposed to the tuberculosis bacteria but have no symptoms and are not infectious.

When should you see a doctor?

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has recently been diagnosed and/or hospitalized with tuberculosis disease, you should seek medical attention. Tuberculosis infection or disease can be diagnosed through either a skin test or a blood test. Tuberculosis is commonly treated through isolation (isolating the infected patient to prevent the disease from spreading) and a drug regimen to combat the M. tuberculosis bacteria.


  • fever
  • chest pain
  • coughing (lasting for more than 3 weeks)
  • coughing up blood
  • trouble breathing
  • night sweats or chills
  • weight loss

Where does Tuberculosis occur in the body?

The most common form of tuberculosis occurs in the lungs; this type of tuberculosis disease is known as pulmonary tuberculosis. However, tuberculosis disease can occur outside of the lungs, and when this occurs, it is known as extra-pulmonary tuberculosis disease. Although it is not as common, tuberculosis disease can occur in the brain; this type is known as tuberculosis meningitis.

Now that you know more about the “who, what, when, and where” of tuberculosis, hopefully this information will be useful in keeping an eye out for tuberculosis disease!