Monday, February 12, 2007

Compliance Is The Best Weapon Against Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually affects the lungs but can attack almost any organ of the body. Like the common cold, TB spreads through the air. Only people who are sick with TB in their lungs are infectious. When infectious people cough, sneeze, talk or spit, they propel TB germs, known as bacilli, into the air. A person needs only to inhale a small number of these to be infected.

Left untreated, each person with active TB disease will infect an average between 10 and 15 people every year. But people infected with TB bacilli will not necessarily become sick with the disease. The immune system walls off the TB bacilli which, protected by a thick waxy coat, can lie dormant for years. However, when a person's immune system is weakened, the chances of becoming sick with TB increases.

To treat TB, two or more antibiotics with different mechanisms of action are always given, because treatment with only one drug can leave behind a few bacteria resistant to that drug. The most commonly used antibiotics are ethambutol, rifampicin, isoniazid, and pyrazinamide. These antibiotics may be contained a single capsule, reducing the number of pills a person has to take each day and reducing the chance of developing drug resistance. Poorly supervised or incomplete treatment of TB is worse than no treatment at all. While drug resistant TB is generally treatable, it requires extensive drug therapy that is prohibitively expensive and is also more toxic to patients.



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