Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the acid-fast bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The pathogen is frequently referred to as the tubercle bacillus. It is a major health problem in the world and kills more persons than any other infectious disease. More than 1V2 billion people in the world may have TB and many do not know it. Each year there are more than 8 million new bases of TB. Many of the new cases of TB can be attributed, in part, to the increased number of persons with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Active TB develops in these people because of their compromised immune system. It can also be attributed to the increasingly crowded living conditions in urban areas. Individuals susceptible to TB are those with alcohol addiction, AIDS, and those in a debilitative condition.

Tuberculosis is transmitted from one person to another by droplets dispersed in the air through coughing and sneezing. The organisms are inhaled into the alveoli (air sacs) of the lung. The tubercle bacilli can spread from the lungs to other organs of the body via the blood and lymphatic system. If the body's immune system is strong or intact, the phagocytes stop the multiplication of the tubercle bacilli. When the immune system is compromised, the tubercle bacilli spread in the lungs and to other organs. Dissemination of tuberculosis bacilli can be found in the liver, kidneys, spleen, and other organs. Symptoms of TB include anorexia, cough, sputum production, increased fever, night sweats, weight loss, and positive acid-fast bacilli (AFB) in the sputum. Medication to treat and prevent TB is discussed in Chapter 13.

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