A review of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for testing for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) in the Journal of the American Medical Association January 19, 2023, stated that 5% to 10% of those diagnosed with LTBI will contract active tuberculosis. It is estimated that 13 million Americans have been diagnosed with LTBI.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs. The American Lung Association states that the bacteria that causes TB is mycobacterium tuberculosis. The lungs are usually infected, although the organism can strike other tissues or organs.

Tuberculosis is not easily spread from one person to another, although it can be contagious. American Lung Association reports that it is more often spread by contact with family members or co-workers than with casual acquaintances, and spreading is rare within the United States.

Usually, the immune system can successfully fight TB, but when that is not possible, a person can contract TB. When it does spread, the TB bacterium settles in the lungs and begins to grow if the immune system is not strong enough to stop it. If a person is susceptible to it, TB can develop within days or weeks of infection.

The types of TB are designated as active or latent, depending upon the presence of symptoms. 1.8 billion people in the world are estimated to have TB, though only ten million people are thought to have active cases. In the United States, the number of cases is much lower than in other countries, although, according to Mayo Clinic, TB is still a concern.


Those with latent tuberculosis have no symptoms, nor are they contagious to others. LTBI is usually diagnosed via blood test or a tubercular skin test. Among the most susceptible to contractive LTBI are people with weakened immune systems.

Unusual coughing is often a sign of active TB. Three or more weeks of consistent coughing, signs of blood when coughing, and chest pain while coughing or breathing could be TB symptoms. Mucus appearing during coughing my also signal active TB. According to Mayo Clinic, signs not associated or in addition to coughing that may indicate active TB are fatigue, unintentional weight loss, fever, chills and appetite loss. Nighttime perspiration may also be an indicator. If tuberculosis has expanded to other parts of the body, blood in urine or back pain may also be symptoms.

TB not just a respiratory condition

Tuberculosis is considered a respiratory illness, but it can affect other parts of the body. When it spreads, TB travels through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to tissues and organs. It can affect bones, the brain, lymph nodes, kidneys, the spine, skin and the heart. Among cardiovascular conditions associated with TB are heart failure and constrictive pericarditis, according to the Journal of the American Heart Association. TB can also have a negative effect on those with diabetes.

Those at risk

In addition to those with a weakened immune system, family members and others who associate closely with those infected TB are at risk. If diagnosis is active, those infected should avoid close contact with others, sleep alone and not return to work or school until a health provider gives approval.

Others live in parts of the world, including Asia and Africa, where TB rates are higher than in the U.S. 

Additionally, groups that include lower immune systems, such as babies and small children, those with chronic conditions, such as kidney disease and diabetes, HIV/AIDS patients and organ transplant recipients may be at higher risk.

Those receiving chemotherapy as cancer treatment and other treatment for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Chron’s disease, may also be more susceptible.

Treatment options

Although latent TB is not contagious, preventative action is recommended. Usually, a months-long antibiotic regimen is prescribed that helps eliminate germs that could be dangerous if LTBI becomes active.

For active TB, treatment usually involves medication for a period of 6-12 months. The antibacterial drugs are designed to be taken during the entire prescription length, and failure to do so may dilute their effect.

To learn more about a variety of health conditions, management and treatment, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.

If you have questions about your cardiovascular health, including heart, blood pressure, stroke lifestyle and other issues, we want to answer them. Please submit your questions to Dr. Haqqani by e-mail at [email protected] .

Omar P. Haqqani is the Chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Vascular Health Clinics in Midland.

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