Tuberculosis, or TB, is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs. It is spread by people with TB when they cough or sneeze.
In healthy people, infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis doesn’t make them ill because their body makes enough antibodies quickly enough to stop the bacteria. When a child is weak or has been ill or has another disease like HIV then TB can make them very ill.
Signs and symptoms
- coughing, sometimes with thick mucus or blood
- chest pains
- weight loss
- night sweats.
‘Musa’s uncle had a cough for a long time and there was blood in his spit. He coughed up TB germs which Musa and his baby sister breathed in. The germs settled in Musa’s lungs. He began to cough, lost weight and became very weak. His baby sister died.’
TB is very infectious. This boy is wearing a mask to stop him breathing in TB germs.
Most tuberculosis can be treated with a six-month course of antibiotics but there are some kinds of TB that cannot be treated, this is called ‘drug resistant tuberculosis’.
Children can be immunised against TB. Immunisation is with the BCG vaccine and protects children against TB meningitis. Scientists all over the world are working hard to find better immunisation for all kinds of TB, for all ages and all kinds of people.
- Very good collection of links to TB fact sheets
- As well as country profiles for TB
- Video about childhood and TB
World TB Day – 24 March
Centres for Disease Control
World Health Organization