25 Little-Known Tuberculosis Facts You’ll Want To Know

Posted by , Updated on September 14, 2017

Do you take your health seriously? Well, even if you do, there isn’t much you can do about diseases like tuberculosis. Fortunately, if you live in the US or Europe, then society is largely free of this lethal disease, but unfortunately, it’s been coming back! Why? Because bacteria are slowly becoming immune to antibiotics! These are 25 Little-Known Tuberculosis Facts You’ll Want To Know.


Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

tuberculosisSource: mayoclinic.org

Most of the time, it affects the lungs, but other parts of the body can be affected as well.

lungsSource: webmd.com

Most infections don't cause any symptoms. This is known as latent tuberculosis. 10% of the time, however, this latent infection progresses to active symptoms.

tuberculosisSource: webmd.com

Once you develop active symptoms, without treatment, you only have a roughly 50% chance of survival.

halfSource: mayoclinic.org

The classic symptoms are coughing blood, fevers, and weight loss. Once other organs are affected, additional symptoms will arise.

stethoscopeSource: webmd.com

The disease is spread when people with active tuberculosis cough or sneeze. People with latent tuberculosis cannot spread the disease.

sneezeSource: mayoclinic.org

People with HIV or AIDS, as well as smokers, contract tuberculosis much more easily. In fact, tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among people with HIV.

cigarettesSource: cdc.gov, who.int

The most common way to diagnose tuberculosis is with a chest X-ray, but there's also a blood test that can be done as well.

bodySource: cdc.gov, activebeat.com

Treatment of the disease requires taking multiple antibiotics over a long period of time.

pillsSource: mayoclinic.org

Given that resistance to antibiotics is increasing around the world, rates of multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) are increasing.

sosSource: who.int

Get ready for a terrifying statistic - nearly 1 out of every 3 people in the world is infected with some form of tuberculosis.

worldSource: mayoclinic.org

Keep in mind, however, the vast majority of those cases are latent, meaning there are no symptoms.

citySource: cdc.gov

95% of deaths from tuberculosis occur in developing countries.

developing countrySource: who.int

About 80% of people in Asian and African countries test positive for latent tuberculosis while 5-10% of people in the US test positive for latent tuberculosis. The reason for this is largely due to the availability of antibiotics and vaccines in developed nations.

slumsSource: gatesfoundation.org

What might be surprising to some is that Tuberculosis is not a new disease at all. While it wasn't discovered until the 1800's, archaeologists have reason to believe that even ancient Egyptians 6,000 years ago suffered from the disease.

Ancient-Egypt-Egyptian-God-Anubis-Judgement-640875Source: who.int, activebeat.com

The disease was first identified in 1882 by German physician Robert Koch.

Robert KochSource: history.com

It used to have a mortality rate of nearly 100%. Even with that percentage dropping due to antibiotics and vaccines, there are still an estimated 2 million deaths due to tuberculosis every year.

ripSource: who.int

It was known simply as "consumption" or "the white plague" since doctors could do little to prevent the body from wasting away.

skullSource: history.com

The first effective antibiotic wouldn't be discovered for another 50 years (1940's).

pillsSource: scientificamerican.com

Due to the antibiotic resistance we mentioned earlier, tuberculosis is making a comeback, especially in countries like South Africa and Russia.

russiaSource: theatlantic.com

Tuberculosis has been on the decline in the US for decades, but the rate of decline has been slowing down.

decreaseSource: cdc.gov

The two most effective antibiotics are isoniazid and rifampsicin. As we said, tuberculosis is slowly becoming immune to these. Back up antibiotics do exist, but they cost nearly $500,000 per treatment.

moneySource: mayoclinic.org

When the disease becomes resistant to the backup drugs, it is labeled as XDR-TB, or extensively drug-resistant TB. At this point, treatment options are limited.

doctorSource: cdc.gov

When antibiotics aren't taken exactly as prescribed, it gives the disease a chance to become resistant.

pill boxSource: fda.gov

The problem right now is that companies don't have a financial incentive to produce new antibiotics. Of the large economies in the world, both the US and UK have expressed a desire to provide public funding to develop new drugs, but as of now it is still in the planning phases.

bacteriaSource: fortune.com

Images: Featured Image: Shutterstock, 25. wikimedia commons (public domain), 24. pixabay (public domain), 23. Government & Heritage Library, State Library of NC via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 22. wikimedia (public domain), 21-12. pixabay (public domain), 11. Max Pixel (public domain), 10. wikimedia commons (public domain), 9-1. pixabay (public domain)

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