Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB usually affects the lungs, but can also affect the kidneys, spine, and brain. TB is spread through the air by coughing, sneezing, or speaking. TB is NOT spread through shaking hands, sharing food, or kissing. There are two types of TB infection: latent TB infection and TB disease.
Latent TB infection occurs when someone breathes in TB bacteria, but the body’s natural immune system is able to stop them from growing. People with latent TB infection do not show symptoms and are not infectious. Latent TB infection can develop into TB disease months or years later if the immune system becomes weakened.
TB disease occurs when the body is not able to stop the TB bacteria from growing. Symptoms of TB disease include bad cough, chest pain, coughing blood, fatigue, and fever. A TB disease drug regimen takes 6 to 9 months, while treatment for latent TB infection is much simpler.