Written by Ooi An Gie, Provisionally Registered Pharmacist (PRP)

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne disease that often affect the lung. This disease is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). People infected with TB usually will experience severe coughing with phlegm or blood, chest pain, fever, weakness and night sweat. Patient with symptoms of TB should undergo sputum test, chest x-ray, tuberculin skin test or TB serology test to detect TB bacteria in the body.

Who is susceptible to Tuberculosis?

People with a weakened immune system including very young children, elderly, HIV/AIDS patients or cancer patient are more susceptible to TB infection. There is a higher risk of getting TB in developing countries. According to World Health Organisation, in year 2018, India has the greatest number of new TB cases followed by China, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.

In hopes to prevent the increasing cases of TB, Malaysia have also initiated the National BCG Vaccination Program in 1961. Administration of BCG produces artificial infection which spreads from the inoculation site via the lymphatic system to local lymph nodes. It produces an immunity equivalent to that produced by natural primary infection with virulent bacilli. BCG-induced immunity develops about 6 weeks after vaccination.

Types of Tuberculosis

TB patients can be classified into two groups which are active TB and latent TB. Active TB patient are infected and showing with the symptoms while latent TB are people who have TB infection, but the bacteria stay in the inactive state without showing any ill symptoms. In fact, about one quarter of the world’s population are infected with latent TB. It is very important to differentiate between active TB and latent TB in order to proceed with the proper treatment. A standard TB treatment will last for six months which consist of a combination of antibiotics. It is crucial to start treatment immediately and always make sure you adhere to the whole regimen. This is because TB bacteria can easily mutate into a drug resistant strains which they are able to survive even with the most potent TB drug. A latent TB patient are advised to take medication to reduce the risk of developing into active TB.

Prevent spreading Tuberculosis

Active TB are contagious. When a TB patient cough or sneeze, they will expel the germs to the air and infect the healthy person. If you are infected with TB, there are a few tips for you to prevent others from getting TB.

  • Get treated and take your medications.
  • Stay home. Do not visit others or invite others to visit you.
  • Stay in a ventilated room. TB bacteria can spread more easily in a small closed space.
  • Always cover your mouth whenever you cough or sneeze. Seal the used tissue and throw it away.
  • Always wear a mask whenever you are in a public area.


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