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Tuberculosis Causes & Risks


TB is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis . When a person with active TB of the lungs coughs or sneezes, people nearby may inhale the bacteria. TB is easily spread in crowded conditions. It is also easily spread among people who are ill or have weakened immune systems.

Pathway to the Lungs

Air pathway breathing
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is inhaled through the mouth and nose and travels down into the lungs causing TB.
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Risk Factors

These factors increase your chance of developing TB:

  • Weakened immune system or chronic diseases (highest risk)
  • HIV infection
  • Malnutrition
  • Intravenous drug use
  • Alcoholism
  • Leukemia , lymphoma , and other cancers
  • Poorly controlled diabetes mellitus
  • Severe kidney disease
  • Corticosteroids
  • Some medications used for treating rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases including etanercept , infliximab , and adalimumab
  • Suppressed immune system caused by medications, such as drugs to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ
  • Other risks factors include:
    • Silicosis (an occupational lung disease)
    • Living in crowded, indoor conditions (eg, homeless shelters, dormitories, military barracks)
    • Age (infants, young children, and elderly people)

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2022 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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