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Latent Tuberculosis: Symptoms, diagnosis, and prevention measures

Latent TB is a condition where the TB bacteria remain in the body without causing any symptoms of the disease. However, the bacteria may become active later and cause TB disease if left untreated.

India TV Health Desk Edited By: India TV Health Desk New Delhi Published on: March 27, 2023 16:07 IST
Latent Tuberculosis
Image Source : FREEPIK Latent Tuberculosis: Symptoms, diagnosis, and prevention measures

Tuberculosis is a severe bacterial infection that primarily impacts the lungs. It is a highly contagious disease that, if left untreated, can spread to other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, bone joints, brain, spine, heart muscles, and voice box, resulting in a more severe condition. Several studies suggest that a higher prevalence of Latent Tuberculosis Infection (LTBI) would lead to a greater incidence and mortality of TB. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately one-fourth of the world's population is estimated to be infected with Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, and, on average, 5-10% of those infected will develop active TB disease over their lifetime.

Symptoms of Latent Tuberculosis

In most cases, LTBI does not present any symptoms. The person infected usually does not feel sick, and chest x-rays and sputum tests show no signs of the disease. However, the TB bacteria may remain dormant in the body and become active later on, leading to TB disease. This is more likely to happen in individuals with a weakened immune system, such as those living with HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, or other underlying health conditions.

Diagnosis of Latent Tuberculosis

LTBI can be diagnosed through a simple blood test, also known as the interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA). This test measures the immune system's response to the TB bacteria and can detect the presence of TB infection even in individuals who do not show any symptoms. Chest x-rays and sputum tests are also sometimes used to diagnose LTBI.

Prevention of Latent Tuberculosis

Prevention of LTBI involves identifying and treating individuals who are at a higher risk of developing TB disease. This includes people living with HIV/AIDS, close contacts of people with active TB, healthcare workers, and individuals living in areas with a high incidence of TB. The most effective way to prevent LTBI from developing into active TB is through preventive therapy. This involves taking medication for a period of 3-9 months, depending on the medication prescribed by a healthcare professional.

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