What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. TB is spread through the air and generally infects the lungs. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the patient can pass the disease to others, making it highly contagious.

What are the Symptoms of Tuberculosis?

Most people who are exposed to TB do not get sick. Some people live with TB but never have any symptoms– this is called a “latent” TB infection. People with a latent infection have a 10% risk of developing symptoms later. People with latent TB cannot spread the disease to others, but will become contagious if symptoms of TB disease develop.

Some people are not able to control TB infection and will develop TB disease. In these individuals, the lungs become infected, leading to a cough, chest pain, fever and fatigue. In some cases, the infection will spread to the kidneys, spine and brain.

Who is at Risk for TB Disease?

While anyone can be exposed to TB and develop a latent infection, certain people have a higher risk of developing TB disease. People with a weak immune system, including children younger than five, the elderly, people on particular medicines (such as cancer patients or people with autoimmune diseases), those with diabetes, certain cancers, or HIV and people who abuse cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol fall into this category.

TB is contagious with continuous exposure, so people who work in hospitals, nursing homes, jails or homeless shelters are at higher risk for being exposed to TB. Tuberculosis is also more common in certain regions of the world (most countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia), so people who come from these countries also have a higher risk of being exposed.

TB Testing from BioReference

In the past, being tested for TB involved multiple visits to the doctor. BioReference offers a test that can detect TB with a single blood sample without the need for a repeat visit. This test measures the immune system’s reaction to specific parts of the TB bacterium, which can tell a physician whether a patient has been exposed to TB or not.

When to get Tested

To reduce disparities related to TB, screening, prevention and control efforts should be targeted to the populations at greatest risk. Those who work closely with people at increased risk for TB may also be required to have a TB test.

Both latent and active TB infections can be treated with long-term antibiotics to limit the spread of disease. Speak with your physician to confirm if testing is right for you.