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About Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection caused by a slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB most often affects the lungs. TB is now the most deadly infectious disease killer globally.

TB is both curable and preventable!

What is TB?

Click for the full new TB infographic


When symptoms of respiratory TB occur, they may include:

  • coughing up mucus or blood
  • fevers, chills and night sweats
  • loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • always feeling tired and fatigued
  • shortness of breath and chest pain

Symptoms of TB can begin gradually and worsen over time.


TB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a slow-growing bacteria that thrives in areas of the body that are rich in blood and oxygen, such as the lungs. TB is most often found in the lungs; this is called respiratory TB. TB can also spread to other parts of the body; this is called non-respiratory TB. 

If a person's immune system becomes unable to prevent the bacteria from growing, the TB becomes active.

  • For info sheets on pulmonary and extrapulmonary TB, see the TB clinic page. 

Tests & diagnosis

The tuberculin skin test shows whether or not a person has been infected. The test cannot differentiate between inactive (latent TB infection) or active TB disease.

A chest X-ray can show whether TB disease has affected the lungs.

A sputum test shows if TB germs are present in coughed-up sputum from the lungs. It can help determine if the person is contagious.


To avoid getting an active TB infection, do not spend long periods of time in stuffy, enclosed rooms with anyone who has active TB until that person has been treated for at least two weeks.

If you live with someone who has active TB, help and encourage the person to follow treatment instructions.

If you work in a facility that cares for people who have untreated TB, use protective measures, such as face masks.

People with TB disease of the lungs can be infectious to others. Once the person has taken medications to kill the TB germs, they are no longer infectious and are able to resume their normal activities.

  • For info sheets on latent TB infection, see the TB clinic page under TB prevention.

Treatment & medication

Treatment & drugs

TB is curable with anti-TB medications, however, TB germs have a waxy coat and can be very difficult to kill. 

TB disease requires a combination of several anti-TB medications to be cured. The medications must be taken for at least six months and sometimes longer. Missing doses can lead to treatment failure. It is necessary to complete the entire course of treatment to be cured. 

In persons with TB infection, the inactive (sleeping) bacteria can be killed and TB disease can be prevented. This requires only one anti-TB medication. However, because the TB germs are difficult to kill, this medication needs to be taken for several months. 

Anti-TB medications are generally safe. However, like any medication, they must be used carefully and monitored in case side effects develop.

Treatment is often a success, but it is a long process, requiring about 6 to 9 months of anti-TB medications. 

Medication fact sheets

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SOURCE: About Tuberculosis ( )
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