Tuberculosis (TB) is a notifiable infectious disease caused by tuberculosis bacteria (mycobacteria belonging to the so-called Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex). The bacteria are usually transmitted from person to person by inhaling infectious droplet nuclei (aerosols). Tuberculosis preferentially affects the lungs, but it can also occur in any other organ.
If the immune defense of our body succeeds in successfully containing the pathogen after the first contact, there is a latent tuberculous infection (LTBI, detection by positive tuberculin skin test about 6-8 weeks after contact). This reaction to an infection that does not lead to a clinically tangible disease state occurs in 90-95% of cases of infection. The formation of granulomas allows infected people with an intact immune system to narrow down the infection without developing a disease requiring treatment. By the formation of granulomas, however, the bacteria are only contained, but usually not completely killed. Due to various messenger substances (cytokines) of the cells involved, further immune activation occurs. Since this granulomatous tissue reaction is typical for tuberculosis, there is also talk of a specific inflammation.
Tuberculosis is one of the most common infectious diseases. Worldwide, it is estimated that more than 10 million people fall ill every year, and more than 1 million people die from it every year.
Many know tuberculosis mainly from historical works, thinking about sanatoriums in the mountains. In Germany, the disease has become rare thanks to good care and hygiene. But here, too, almost 6 000 people are affected every year.
What is the main cause of tuberculosis?
Can you survive a tuberculosis?
What happens if a person has tuberculosis?
Does tuberculosis go away?