Tuberculosis (TB)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

Get the facts about the tuberculosis skin test.

Tuberculosis (TB) Skin Test

The tuberculosis skin test is a test used to determine if someone has developed an immune response to the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). This response can occur if someone currently has TB, if they were exposed to it in the past, or if they received the BCG vaccine against TB (which is not administered in the U.S.). The World Health Organization estimates that 2 billion people worldwide have latent TB, while around 3 million people worldwide die of TB each year. The tuberculosis skin test is also known as the tuberculin test or PPD (purified protein derivative) test.

Tuberculosis (TB) facts

  • TB is an infectious disease that's transmitted from person to person.
  • There are many different types of TB.
  • A bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, causes the disease.
  • There are many risk factors for TB. Clinical symptoms and signs of pulmonary TB include fever, night sweats, cough, hemoptysis (coughing up blood-stained sputum), weight loss, fatigue, and chest pain.
  • TB is contagious; the incubation and contagious periods may vary.
  • Physicians definitively diagnose TB by culturing mycobacteria from sputum or biopsy specimens, but health-care professionals presumptively diagnose TB by history, physical exam, skin testing, and chest X-rays.
  • Treatment of TB infection is related to the type of TB infection and often requires extended treatments (months) with one or more anti-TB drugs.
  • Complications of TB range from none to chronic problems and death and include lung, kidney, and liver problems that can be severe.
  • The prognosis for appropriately treated TB infection is good. The prognosis declines in people who develop complications or who have had previous TB treatments.
  • Prevention of TB involves both early treatment to reduce transmission and isolation of the infected person until they are no longer contagious. There is a vaccine against TB, but it is not used routinely in the U.S. because of efficacy issues and other problems.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/2/2016
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