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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What are complications of tuberculosis?

Although some people may develop no complications, others range from mild to severe complications, including death. Some of the more severe complications include lung function damage, bone pain (spine, ribs, and joints), meningitis, kidney and/or liver malfunction, cardiac tamponade, and visual disturbances.

What is the prognosis of tuberculosis?

For most people, the prognosis of TB is good if they complete the treatment protocols. The recurrence rate of TB is low (0%-14%) and some may be due to reinfection. Drug-resistant TB is more difficult to treat, and the prognosis is not as good. The same prognosis occurs for those patients who are immunocompromised, in the elderly, and in patients with previous infection and treatment for TB.

How can people prevent tuberculosis?

A vaccine against TB is commercially available; it is termed BCG, or Bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccine. However, the vaccine is not recommended for use in the U.S. because of the low risk for TB infections. Also, the vaccine is highly variable in its ability to prevent adult pulmonary disease. Another problem is that the vaccine may interfere with the interpretation of the tuberculin skin test. Despite this, a number of countries still use it to reduce childhood infections and miliary disease. Consequently, the CDC makes this recommendation: "The BCG vaccine should be considered only for very select persons who meet specific criteria and in consultation with a TB expert."

Currently, people who have active TB are suggested to be treated using isolation techniques along with anti-TB drugs to prevent spread according to the CDC. The CDC suggests that patients with probable active TB be isolated in a private room with negative pressure (air exhausted to outside or through a high-efficiency particulate air filter). Further, staff taking care of them must wear high-efficiency disposable masks sufficient to filter out any airborne mycobacteria. Continued isolation is suggested until sputum smears are negative for three consecutive determinations (usually after approximately two to four weeks of treatment).


Herchline, Thomas E. "Tuberculosis." Nov. 4, 2013. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Tuberculosis (TB): Basic TB Facts." Sept. 1, 2012. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Tuberculosis (TB): Facts Sheets." Oct. 28, 2011. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Tuberculosis (TB): Testing & Diagnosis." Sept. 6, 2013. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/8/2014
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