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.

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Are there different types of tuberculosis (TB)?

There are many types of tuberculosis, but the main two types are termed either active or latent TB. Active TB is when the disease is actively producing symptoms and can be transmitted to other people; latent disease is when the person is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria, but the bacteria are not producing symptoms (usually due to the body's immune system suppressing the bacterial growth and spread) and have no TB bacteria in the sputum. People with latent TB usually cannot transfer Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria to others unless the immune system fails; the failure causes reactivation (bacterial growth is no longer suppressed) that results in active TB so the person becomes contagious. Latent TB resembles chickenpox infection that goes dormant and may reactivate years later.

Many other types of TB exist in either the active or latent form. These types are named for the signs and for the body systems Mycobacterium tuberculosis preferentially infect, and these infection types vary from person to person. Consequently, pulmonary TB mainly infects the pulmonary system, cutaneous TB has skin symptoms, while miliary TB describes widespread small infected sites (lesions or granulomas about 1 mm-5 mm) found throughout body organs. It is not uncommon for some people to develop more than one type of active TB. More types will be listed in the symptoms and signs section below.

Atypical mycobacteria that may cause disease are the M. avium complex, M. fortuitum complex, and M. kansasii.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/2/2016
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