Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial infection caused by the
bacterium. The bacteria typically infect the lungs. They can also infect other areas of the body, like the kidney, spine, or brain.
TB is spread from the lungs of a person with TB through coughing. When a person coughs or sneezes, the bacteria travel into the air and may be inhaled by a person standing nearby. TB is most commonly spread through repeated contact, such as within a family. Short-term exposure can also cause TB.
At one point, TB was the leading cause of death in the US. As treatments were developed, the rates began to drop. Today, there are far fewer cases, but the disease is still present.
TB is still a major health problem throughout the world, particularly in Africa. People with
also have a higher risk of getting TB.
Symptoms depend on where the bacteria have settled and grown in the body. The lungs are often infected. Symptoms of TB infection in the lungs include:
TB can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics. Without treatment, the disease can be fatal.
The Bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccine, or BCG, can help prevent TB. However, this vaccine does not always protect people from getting TB.
The vaccine contains live, weakened bacteria. It is given as shot in the arm.
The following individuals should be considered for vaccination:
The vaccine is usually given one time. It may be given twice in some cases.
The vaccine may cause a TB skin test to have a false-positive reading. This means that you may test positive for TB even though you do not have it. Blood tests are available to check for TB infection that are not affected by previous BCG vaccination.
Common side effects of the vaccine include:
More serious side effects may rarely occur and could lead to serious illness or death.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction (eg, rash, trouble breathing) require medical care right away.
You should not get the vaccine if you:
Containing the virus depends on giving antibiotics and isolating people who are infected. It is important to take all of the antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria and to avoid spreading it to others.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
Basic TB facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/default.htm. Updated March 13, 2012. Accessed November 29, 2012.
BCG vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/tb/pubs/tbfactsheets/bcg.htm. Accessed February 6, 2007.
BCG vaccine. DailyMed website. Available at:
http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=a83f0b99-9038-4c5a-aaac-8792b32838fe#nlm34084-4. Updated September 2011. Accessed November 29, 2012.
Kaufmann SH. Fact and fiction in tuberculosis vaccine research: 10 years later.
Lancet Infect Dis.
Kaufmann SH, Hussey G, Lambert PH. New vaccines for tuberculosis.
Lancet. 2010 Jun 12;375(9731):2110-9.
Pediatric tuberculosis fact sheet. American Lung Association website. Available at:
http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/tuberculosis/tuberculosis-in-children-fact.html. Updated February 2010. Accessed November 29, 2012.
Rouanet C, Locht C. Boosting BCG to protect against TB.
Expert Rev Respir Med. 2010 Jun;4(3):339-48.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.