Eye on Superbugs Part 6: Mycobacterium tuberculosis

tuberculosis9.25.14  

Written by: Selective Micro Technologies 

For this week’s section in the series “Eye on Superbugs,” the focus is: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, an infamous superbug with frightening side effects. With the generation of new medical discoveries, this bacterium has been contained and controlled in the United States, reaching an all-time low in recent years. Still considered to be a threat, tuberculosis should never be a disease that is overlooked. Now is the time to know what to do if you feel you might have been exposed or even contracted this bacterium.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis: What is it?

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or TB, is bacteria that caused the “White Plague” in the 17th and 18th centuries. The bacteria are obligate aerobe, meaning they require oxygen in order to grow and survive. This is why the TB bacteria are typically found in the lungs. It is most easily spread from person to person through breathing in the bacteria when it is expressed from an infected person by a cough or sneeze. With roughly one-third of the world population having been infected with TB and everyone breathing in the same air, it is a constant threat and is still considered one of the world’s most deadly diseases.         

TB is classified into two categories: latent TB infection and TB disease. The latent infection occurs when bacteria has infected a person, but is not making them sick. The person who is infected latently is not infectious unless the bacteria become active in your system. At this point, the bacteria are causing the person to be sick and they can spread the disease to others. While this disease is curable, it takes six months’ worth of antibiotics to rid from your system. With the number of infections being reported to down below 10,000 cases per year in the United States, there is cause for concern that funding toward treatment and research may become limited or decreased, which could leave people susceptible as the bacteria grow in resistance. It is an expensive illness to treat in either latent or active disease forms.

Testing for this disease is offered two ways, according to the CDC. They are:

  1. TB skin test
  2. Blood test          

Symptoms of the disease are listed on the CDC website as:

  • a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer
  • pain in the chest
  • coughing up blood or sputum
  • weakness or fatigue
  • weight loss
  • no appetite
  • chills
  • fever
  • sweating at night

Fast facts on Mycobacterium tuberculosis:

  1. Less than 10,000 cases of TB were reported in 2013 to the CDC, in the United States.
  2. Two forms: Latent TB (doesn’t make you sick/non-infectious) and active TB disease (infectious).
  3. Simple blood test or TB skin test can diagnose exposure or disease.

Infographic:

 

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