Tuberculosis is one of the most variable diseases in the world, and even though it is commonly recognized as a pulmonary disease, it has manifestations in almost every system in the body. It is caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is one of the most studied microorganisms in microbiology, also known as Koch’s bacillus to recognize the investigator who discovered the causative agent. Tuberculosis is the most common cause of mortality related to infectious diseases, and even though its incidence is reducing in the United States, it is becoming resistant to antibiotics and more aggressive in other parts of the world.
It is important to perform screening methods to diagnose tuberculosis because it is a highly variable disease, and it mimics pulmonary and extra-pulmonary conditions. However, even tuberculin, which is one of the most commonly used, should be interpreted by a doctor because a positive finding doesn’t necessarily mean you have an active disease. Diagnosis requires a complete assessment and various studies, which is why it is essential to look for medical assistance if you are in doubt.
These are the most common symptoms in pulmonary tuberculosis as well as a comprehensive look on the extra-pulmonary manifestations:
1. Productive cough
Productive cough is one of the most common manifestations in tuberculosis, as it is in any other infection of the lower, upper airways, the lungs or the sinuses. However, lung infection by tuberculosis is one of the most important causes of chronic cough, which is defined as a recurrent cough for 8 weeks or more. Tuberculosis has the ability to remain latent in the body of the infected individual, and it reactivates when the conditions are given for the infectious agent to thrive. For this reason, some patients with tuberculosis may have a recurrent infection in the airways with cough, fever and other symptoms.
Chest radiograph is one of the most common methods to examine the cause of productive cough, and it gives clinicians a clear suspicion of tuberculosis that should be confirmed with blood tests and sputum cultures. It is important to pay special attention to chronic cough, especially in immunocompromised patients, in areas with high prevalence of tuberculosis, and patients who have travelled to these areas.