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General Information on TB

What is TB?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs. But TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.

However, not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. People who are infected, but not sick, have what is called latent TB infection. People who have latent TB infection do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms, and cannot spread TB to others. But some people with latent TB infection go on to get TB disease.
People with TB disease can be treated if they seek medical help. Even better, most people with latent TB infection can take medicine so that they will not develop TB disease. Treatment of TB is free of cost by Government of Nepal.

How is TB spread?

TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. When a person breathes in TB bacteria, the bacteria can settle in the lungs and begin to grow. From there, they can move through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine, and brain.

TB disease in the lungs or throat can be infectious. This means that the bacteria can be spread to other people. TB in other parts of the body, such as the kidney or spine, is usually not infectious.

Symptoms of TB

  • Cough for more than 2 weeks
  • Low-grade fever, especially at night
  • Blood stained sputum (phlegm)
  • Chest pain
Symptoms of Extra pulmonary TB may vary upon the organ involved.
Other symptoms common to both types of TB
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Weakness of the body

How is TB Diagnosed?

Tuberculosis is diagnosed by finding Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria in a clinical specimen taken from the patient. While other investigations may strongly suggest tuberculosis as the diagnosis, they cannot confirm it.

A complete medical evaluation for tuberculosis (TB) must include a medical history, a physical examination, a chest X-ray and microbiological examination (of sputum or some other appropriate sample). It may also include a tuberculin skin test, other scans and X-rays, surgical biopsy.

Sputum smears and cultures should be done for acid-fast bacilli if the patient is producing sputum. The preferred method for this is fluorescence microscopy (auramine-rhodamine staining), which is more sensitive than conventional Ziehl-Neelsen staining. In cases where there is no spontaneous sputum production, a sample can be induced, usually by nebulized inhalation of a saline or saline with bronchodilator solution. A comparative study found that inducing three sputum samples is more sensitive than three gastric washings.