Synonyms: TB, TB pneumonia

Medical Specialties: Internal medicine, Pulmonology

Clinical Definition

Tuberculosis, or TB, is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria are spread from infected persons through the air, typically tainting the lungs. However, the bacteria can also affect the kidneys, spine and brain. Skin tests and blood tests are used to detect TB infection, while medications are used to treat the debilitating disease. 

In Our Own Words

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a contagious bacterial disease. The bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is spread in the air and usually attacks the lungs, but it can also infect many other parts of the body, including the brain or the spine.


Even when infected, not everyone becomes sick right away. Many patients have a latent TB infection, which progress to an active form of the disease if the immune system can't prevent the bacterium from growing and multiplying. The risk of getting TB is much greater for patients and caregivers who have weakened immune system, such as those suffering from HIV infection.    

Relevant Conditions
  • Incarceration, institutionalized settings
  • Drug addiction or alcohol abuse
Common Types
  • Active disease
  • Latent TB infection
  • TB pneumonia
Side Effects
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  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Tuberculosis (TB)." July 2013. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • CDC. “Tuberculosis: Get the Facts,” Global TB. March 2012. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • Cleveland Clinic. "Tuberculosis Overview." Diseases & Conditions. Jan. 2010. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • CDC. Vaccine and Immunizations. “Testing for TB in BCG-Vaccinated People.” Aug. 14, 2012. Accessed Sept. 2013.
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