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Tuberculosis - What it is

Tuberculosis - Conditions & Treatments SingHealth

Tuberculosis, or TB for short, is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB is a serious disease that can cause a person to become very sick if not treated properly with medicines.

How is tuberculosis spread?

TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria is passed through the air when someone who is sick with TB disease coughs, laughs, sings, or sneezes. When you breathe air that has the TB bacteria, you may get TB infection (latent TB). This means you have dormant (sleeping) TB bacteria in your body that does not make you sick and cannot be passed to anyone else. If these dormant TB bacteria wake up and multiply, you will get sick with TB disease (active TB).

If you have TB infection, the chances of getting TB disease increases if you have HIV infection or other health problems such as diabetes that make it difficult for your body to fight bacteria. If you abuse alcohol or use illicit drugs, or you were not treated correctly for TB infection in the past your risk of getting TB disease increases as well.

You cannot get TB bacteria from sharing drinking containers or eating utensils, sharing cigarettes, or saliva shared from kissing.

Can tuberculosis affect other parts of the body?

TB usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body such as lymph nodes, bones and joints, kidneys, intestines, covering of the heart known as the pericardium, brain and liver.

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