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What Is Tuberculosis?


Tuberculosis, also called TB, is a deadly infectious disease and is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). This disease mostly affects the lungs but can also attack other parts of the body, for example the central nervous system, the lymphatic system, the circulatory system, the genitourinary system, bones, joints and even the skin. MTB is a slow-growing aerobic bacterium that divides every 16 to 20 hours; in comparison, other bacteria normally divide in minutes.

One should know that there is a difference between being infected with tuberculosis (latent stage) and having tuberculosis disease (active stage). An infected person has the TB germ or bacteria in his body, but his immune system is strong enough and will protect him from becoming sick. The infected person cannot transmit the infection to another person. A person who has the TB disease is sick and is capable of spreading the disease to other people.

In the 1940s, scientists discovered the first of several drugs now used to treat TB. As a result, TB slowly began to disappear in the United States.

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