Tuberculosis: History, Early Onset Symptoms and Treatment

Despite years of research, experiments and treatment options, tuberculosis remains a major concern for public health even today. MTV Nishedh Season 2 sheds light on the symptoms of tuberculosis and tuberculosis treatment through the story of Hina, a young, popular girl in college looking forward to a bright future.

The growing number of diseases and infections affecting human health has become a cause for concern globally, especially after the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Severe to fatal infections start with common, everyday symptoms like cold and cough, making it harder to diagnose and eventually treat it in a timely manner, like tuberculosis for instance. But what is tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection which can be fatal if it remains untreated. TB mostly affects the lungs, but can also affect other organs like the kidney, spine and the brain. 

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MT) and is an air-borne infection. When a person infected with TB sneezes, coughs or speaks, TB bacteria gets into the air. People around the infected person may breathe this air, and become infected. According to statistics stated by the WHO, 10 million people fall ill with tuberculosis every year. Despite being a preventable and curable disease, TB is responsible for the death of 1.5 million people each year.

In MTV Nishedh Season 2, Hina, who normally has a very happening life and a happy future awaiting her, suddenly starts coughing and experiences a serious lack of appetite. She brushes off the early symptoms of tuberculosis and is in denial for a while about the possibility of it being TB.

If a person contracts TB but doesn’t show any symptoms, they are said to have inactive TB or latent TB infection. But when a person exhibits symptoms, it is called active TB. Below are some symptoms of tuberculosis exhibited by people with active TB infection:

  • Cough lasting for longer than two weeks
  • Chest pain 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing blood
  • Night sweats
  • Chills and fever 
  • Weight loss 
  • Fatigue and/or weakness 

Tuberculosis treatment and prevention

TB is very common in many countries and thus, travelers should avoid close contact with known TB patients.

Most people with a latent TB infection never develop TB disease. However, some people with latent TB are more at risk of developing TB disease. Those at high risk for developing TB include people with HIV infection, elderly people, babies and young children, people with weak immune systems, people with a history of TB and incorrect treatment for the same. 

Treatment for latent TB is easier than TB disease because of the lesser number of bacteria present in the body. However, people with latent TB must take medicine to prevent it from progressing to TB disease.

Treatment for TB Disease includes several treatment regimens and can take 4, 6 and 9 months to be fully treated. Healthcare providers must choose the best treatment regimen for each patient based on their drug-susceptibility results, existing medical conditions and the potential for drug interactions. 

 

History of Tuberculosis

MT is said to have very ancient origins with researchers hypothesizing that the genus mycobacterium originated 150 million years ago. Previously known as the ‘king’s evil’, early scientists who studied TB made excellent discoveries in the same time period. Isocrates in Greece first supposed the infectious nature of TB, while Aristotle suggested it’s contagious nature in pigs and oxes. In 174 AD, however, Clarissimus Galen, personal physician of the then Roman Emperor listed the symptoms of TB as fever, sweating, coughing, and blood stained sputum. He also recommended fresh air, milk and sea voyages as treatment for the infection. 

Francis Sylvius was the one to give an exact pathological and anatomical description of the disease in 1679, while Johann Lukas Schönlein first coined the term “tuberculosis” in the mid-19th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, there were many scientific debates about the etiopathological origin of the disease with researchers arguing whether it is infectious, hereditary or a form of cancer.

Hermann Brehmer, a TB patient himself, first reported healing from TB after traveling to the Himalayan mountains. He also described ‘sanatorium care’ as the first successful remedy for TB in his 1854 dissertation “Tuberculosis is a curable disease”.

On March 24, 1882, famous scientist Robert Koch presented his successful result of isolating tubercle bacillus to the Society of Physiology, which marked the first breakthrough in treating TB. Skin tests, BCG vaccine and other anti-tuberculous drugs were developed.

TB still remains a major public health concern and thus requires a detailed strategy for improving drug treatment, diagnostic tools and prevention plan.

 

TB Vaccine

While India already administers the BCG vaccine to infants below one year of age, at present there is no vaccination for adults. As of September 2022, government sources have confirmed that recombinant Bacille Calmette-Guérin (rBCG) vaccine will soon be available in India, with the Serum Institute of India already conducting Phase 3 trials on adults. 

If you or anyone you know is suffering from TB or is suspected to be infected with TB, call the national TB helpline: 180011666 for assistance and treatment. 

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