Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that typically affects the lungs, but may affect other parts of the body as well. Although curable, TB remains one of the 10 leading causes of death in the Philippines. According to the World Health Organization, the Philippines currently has the highest TB incidence rate in Asia.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024

TB is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are passed through the air when someone with TB of the lungs coughs, speaks, laughs, or sneezes. While the bacteria usually targets the lungs, they may also attack other parts of the body such as the brain, spine, or the bowels.

TB presents with varying signs and symptoms depending on the site of infection: • Lungs - Low-grade fever with night sweats, weight loss (often severe), decreased appetite, cough with occasionally blood-streaked sputum, shortness of breath, chest pain • Skin - Bumps in the skin, with or without an open wound • Stomach/bowels - Abdominal pain, weight loss, loss of appetite, changes in bowel movement • Lymph nodes - Swollen, painful lymph nodes • Bones/joints - Swollen, painful joints; difficulty in moving the affected limbs • Urinary tract - Pain during urination, tea-colored urine, low back pain

TB of the lungs is diagnosed by identifying the bacteria in a sputum sample, or any other sample appropriate to the suspected site of infection. This is done through the use of a microscope, PCR testing, or a laboratory culture. If the patient is unable to undergo these examinations, a diagnosis of TB may still be made based on signs and symptoms and other examinations such as a chest X-ray. Treatment involves a regimen of antibiotics administered over the course of at least six months. A longer course of 12 months is necessary for those with TB of the brain, spinal cord, bones, or joints. Due to the long course of treatment, these individuals must undergo constant follow-up monitoring for both their response to treatment and for adverse side effects from the medications (e.g. liver injury, blurring of vision, joint pain).

People with TB can help protect other people from getting infected by: • Following their treatment regimen as directed by the healthcare provider • Covering the mouth when coughing, sneezing, or laughing • Refraining from coming to school or work until cleared to do so • Avoiding close contact with others • Maintaining good ventilation in the room they are staying in Once an individual is diagnosed with TB, it is important to screen their household and close contacts thoroughly. This is so that treatment could be started as early as possible if one of their contacts turn out to be infected as well. Some individuals may be infected with TB, but not have any symptoms. These individuals are said to have a latent TB infection. To prevent development of active TB in these patients, they can be provided with TB preventive treatment, which is less intensive than the usual TB treatment.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024