Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Tuberculosis treatment

Treating tuberculosis is a very long and sensitive process due to the slow rate of growth of the bacteria in the infected organism and therefore the slow grade of killing it.

In theory, the goal is to cure the infected body off the bacteria and to reduce to minimum the risk of getting other people sick, which may lead to an epidemic. Tuberculosis treatment isn’t very complicated but it’s very strict, some physicians choose the option of giving themselves the treatment to the patients, fearing that they will not take it accordingly, thus making their work in vain and increasing the chancing of contaminating others. This method is called directly observed therapy and it has the highest rate of success in curing this disease.

In the past, tuberculosis was treated as a very serious disease, the patients were taken under strict surveillance, isolated from others in special institutions where they were taken care with the most responsibility and given serious regimes to ensure the best outcome of the treatment. Now, doctors leave it up to the patients to take the treatment without knowing if it’s taken correctly or if it’s taken at all.

Each individual patient receives a plan of treatment especially made for their case of tuberculosis and lifestyle. Tuberculosis treatment consists of various antibiotics that help fight off the infection. Usually there are only two or three antibiotics administered with a specific dosage and at certain time intervals, but in other cases more drugs are used just to be sure that the infected organism doesn’t become resistant to one of the drugs. These medicines are prescribed for a very long period of time – from half an year to nine months, with the possibility of prolonging the treatment because the bacteria is very slow growing and therefore very hard to kill.

In the first stage of the treatment, the antibiotic attack is very aggressive to ensure the success of the treatment and to shorten its period, therefore later on the doses get diminished in quantity and also the period during two alternative antibiotic intakes gets longer. The antibiotic cocktail must be taken even after the patient starts feeling better, because if not treated totally, tuberculosis might reappear.

There is a difference in treatment for each individual but also for each type of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis treatment is given after a series of laboratory tests to ensure that the patient’s organism is responsive to each type of antibiotic. For different types of tuberculosis, the treatment consists of other types of antibiotics, different periods of time, other regimes and also other doses of drugs.

Tuberculosis comes in various forms, classified by the organs it affects. There is pulmonary tuberculosis, the bacteria affects only the lungs, but also extra-pulmonary tuberculosis (the infection spreads to the brain, liver, spine and also other organs). Tuberculosis treatment differs in the latter cases, besides antibiotics there are also used steroids or in the most serious cases, surgery, which is used mainly in spinal tuberculosis.

It is very important to keep the patient under surveillance and also their families and close friends to ensure that the disease won’t get transmitted. It is recommended to have them periodically tested. The patient should also undergo period checkups, to evaluate their general state during the treatment and the evolution of the healing process.

Pulmonary tuberculosis

One of the most threatening diseases of all time is tuberculosis. This affliction can affect various organs, but the main areas of interest are the lungs – this is called pulmonary tuberculosis.

The disease is caused by various strains of bacteria, in both humans and in animals, but to be more precise, humans are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Since early times, people have been threatened by this killing disease. Even with time, tuberculosis is still a dangerous affliction throughout the world, because more and more strains of the same bacteria become resistant to more and more antibiotics. Soon, people may lose the cure for tuberculosis.

Basically, tiny droplets are spread into the air when an infected person coughs, sings, screams, talks, sneezes etc. If a healthy person ingests the spores, the bacterium travels through the respiratory tract to the lungs. A healthy immune system can suppress the growth of the bacteria, but if a person has a scarred immune system, one that can’t fight this infection, the bacteria is more likely to multiply and infect the lungs, causing extensive inflammation. By comparison to a forest, tuberculosis is like a fungus that, in the right weather conditions, can spread and occupy all the trees.

Pulmonary tuberculosis can, therefore, affect people with the immune-deficiency virus commonly known as HIV or AIDS, people that undergo chemotherapy, people suffering from cancer – these types of people are susceptible to this affliction due to their compromised immune system. In addition, the elderly and infants also have an increased sensitivity in contacting the disease. People with advanced ages have weakened immune systems; the body can’t produce the necessary substances that help the body fight off diseases and therefore getting infected can prove to be a very serious and threatening problem. On the other hand, infants do not have a fully formed immune system; their bodies are too young to be put in such a compromising situation.

Pulmonary tuberculosis has various symptoms, many of which coincide with symptoms of other types of tuberculosis or even with the way other diseases act (for example: weight loss, loss of appetite, night chills and sweats, etc.).

Despite this, there are many other signs can trigger the idea of pulmonary tuberculosis. If a person has a persistent cough, combined with blood in the sputum (material expelled when coughing from the lungs) or extensive chest pains, a high difficulty in breathing, or even excessive heart palpitation, one must deduce the existence of this condition.

Once suspected, tuberculosis can be diagnosed and treated. The most common way of diagnosing tuberculosis is using the skin test, but for pulmonary tuberculosis, in particular, physicians usually opt for chest X-rays and CT scans. The diseased areas can also be revealed by using a contrast substance, that doesn’t interact with body’s processes, when getting the CT scans made. These methods show visual proof of the existence of the affliction and of the degree in which the disease has spread and the specific area of infection. Pulmonary tuberculosis looks like tiny bunches of snow, in different sites of the lungs, depending on how advanced the disease is.

Tuberculosis is an exceptionally sensitive and aggressive disease. When talking about tuberculosis, one may consider that pulmonary tuberculosis is the softest variety, by comparison with spinal tuberculosis, for example, but in fact no tuberculosis is better than any type of it. Pulmonary tuberculosis may just be the beginning of a chain of other serious diseases.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Mycobacterium is a type of intracellular pathogenic bacteria that can cause extremely infectious and deadly diseases, such as tuberculosis or leprosy. There are many types of bacteria, each different and more complicate than the other. Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes the deadly lung disease called tuberculosis.

This bacterium can affect animals (for example birds or cows) and also humans, though it is mostly encountered in the last category. It is an aerobe bacterium, it can live, grow and multiply itself in the presence of air. Therefore the main way of contacting the bacterium is to come in contact with airborne droplets from either a carrier or an infected person. The main way of forming these droplets is by coughing or sneezing. They are ingested through the mouth or the nasal cavity and driven to the lungs by the pulmonary system, where it can multiply.

Through history, Mycobacterium tuberculosis has been known since the 17th century as the main cause of the “white plague”. In current times, this strain holds first place in the number of infections and deaths caused by a bacteria. It is also well known for its high resistance to various types of antibiotics, which is the main reason why treating tuberculosis is very tricky. There are usually used a mixture of antibiotics, which are to be taken under direct medical supervision and following a strict schedule, otherwise the cure might not have the desired outcome. The treatment is prescribed specific for each patient so that it has the maximum effect on the disease and so on the type of strain of bacteria that the patient is infected with.

People can be classified in two categories: as carries, they have the bacteria put it does not have the ability to reproduce. These are patients that have latent tuberculosis; they can live all their lives without knowing that they have this bacterium and without ever manifesting any symptoms. The second class consists of the infected people, this is when the bacteria multiplies and inflicts the disease and obviously the symptoms associated with it (these people are defined as patient with active tuberculosis).

Mycobacterium tuberculosis is not a specific bacterium, by which I mean that it doesn’t affect just the pulmonary system, it can also spread through blood to other vital organs and tissues (kidneys, brain, spinal cord etc.) weakening their power of function and finally destroying them.

The presence of the bacteria in the human body deteriorates the immune system, making it more susceptible to other diseases as well. It is currently unknown how the human immune system can’t obliterate the bacterium from the organism. A very important fact is that a body is more vulnerable to this disease if the immune system has already been compromised due to HIV, hepatitis, drug use, alcohol abuse or even malnutrition.

The disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis is extremely hard to diagnose due to the fact that the bacterium can’t be cultivated and identified in a laboratory. There are some tests that can discover the existence of the bacteria in the body, for example the scratch test.

This examination consists of injecting the subject with a small amount of an active substance and examining the appearance of a rash, after which measuring its spread and evaluating the existence of the bacterium in the body. Unfortunately there are no sure tests that can determine 100% the existence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in the organism.