#HLWDK Daily Health Tips: Can Tuberculosis Be Cured?

Q: Please Doc, can you talk on tuberculosis and can it go on forever, if treated?

Tuberculosis (Tb) is a bacterial infection that mainly affects lungs. The infection could be active in which case the person is sick and can transmit the infection to another person or the infection could be inactive, in which case the infection is present in the body but does not cause infection neither can it be transmitted to another person. However, this latter case needs to be treated as it can become active.

The issue of Tb has come more to the front burner with the advent of HIV/AIDS which causes a depression of the immune system such that the Tb infection can hold sway. Other conditions that depress the immune system include cancer treatment, some cancers, malnutrition, Diabetes Mellitus, extremes of age (very young or very old) etc

Symptoms of Tb include fever, cough that lasts for 3 weeks or more, coughing up blood, night sweats, weight loss etc
Treatment of Tb involves the use of a combination of drugs to prevent resistance. These drugs must be taken for the full course to prevent resistance. Common drugs used include Rifampicin, Isoniazid, Pyrazinamide and Ethambutol. These drugs need to be taken for a long period of time, as adviced by your doctor…usually about 6 months, minimum because the bacteria die quite slowly. Don’t be tempted to stop taking your medication when you start to feel better. This may lead to drug resistance. However, a permanent cure can be achieved on completion of treatment.

In countries like Nigeria, the vaccine BCG is the cornerstone of prevention and this is given to children at birth. Unfortunately, the poor economic conditions in most places in Africa makes this disease spread rapidly if one person gets it as overcrowding due to poor/inadequate housing helps the bacteria spread. Teaching people to cover their coughs and stay in well-ventilated places also help.

A related question on the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis is posted below…

Q: Morn Doc, please help me clear out something. A new born baby that was given a first time injection (BCG).Is it a must that it must bring out pus. She is 3 weeks now.

A: The full meaning of BCG is Bacille Calmette-Guerin, named after scientists, Drs Calmette and Guerin who developed the vaccines. It was used for the first time in human beings in 1921. This is a freeze-dried live but weakened strain of Mycobacterium Bovis (very similar to the bacteria that cause tuberculosis), a bacterium found in cattle which can cause tuberculosis in man. This vaccine is part of the compulsory immunization schedule in countries with a high incidence of tuberculosis. It provides protection over a range of 10-20 years and so is not particularly useful in adults…sorry 😀

This vaccine usually causes a local reaction in most, but not all people. This local reaction gives rise to the ‘infamous’ scar 😀 but does not really act as a marker for protection against tuberculosis. So, if you don’t have a BCG scar, it does not mean that you did not respond to the vaccine and there’s certainly no need for you to take another dose of the vaccine. Sometimes, after the vaccine is administered, there is formation of an abscess. This could be due to wrong administration or it could occur as a common complication of this vaccine. It would usually heal on its own over a few weeks.

Have a great day, y’all 😀

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