What Are the Different Types of Types of Tuberculosis?

Some strains of tuberculosis have become resistant to antibiotics.
Article Details
  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Types of tuberculosis (TB) can be classified in numerous ways. They can be organized into how an infection behaves and whether it is latent and non-contagious, or active and causing serious illness. Medical experts also consider this illness by what causes it, and how easy it is to treat; there are super resistant strains that don’t respond to standard antibiotic treatment. Types of tuberculosis may mean stages of the tuberculosis disease process, usually referred to as primary, secondary reactivated, and disseminated.

Those infected by the different strains of tuberculosis may not necessarily show any illness. They can be in a latent stage where people remain healthy and don’t exhibit signs like weakness, fever, coughing, or impact to other organs. The latent stage is usually considered non-contagious, but it can, at any point, progress to the active stage where the lungs become affected and where the illness is dangerous and contagious. This is why patients are treated if they show signs of tuberculosis exposure, even if they have no symptoms of the disease.

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Medical professionals may also discuss types of tuberculosis in terms of its process in the human body. The primary stage is identical to latency. This refers to the action of the immune system when mycobacteria enter the body. In healthy bodies, the immune system keeps active infection from occurring. If for some reason the immune system can’t make this fight, when the infection occurs, or even years later, infection will spread to the lungs in what is called the secondary reactivated stage. Infection in the lungs, when not treated, may spread to other vital organs in the body and can ultimately result in death in the disseminated stage.

Many websites identify TB as being caused by M. tuberculosis, but types of tuberculosis, as classified by strain, are more diverse. Other mycobacteria that can cause TB include M. canetti and M. microti, and there are several more. In understanding this illness, it’s important to note that different strains of bacteria, all of the mycobacteria type, may create TB.

When considering types of tuberculosis for treatment, more needs to be known about the strain a patient has and whether or not the bacteria has changed and developed drug resistance. Rapid-spreading, drug-resistant forms have been created most often by people who haven’t complied with treatment guidelines and finished their TB medication regimen. These new strains require the application of very specific drugs in order to create cure. In cases of strains of TB that have become resistant to multiple drugs (MDR-TB), treatment switches from antibiotics to several years of chemotherapy. This is not always affordable in developing countries where TB may proliferate, and the World Health Organization (WHO) views this type as a serious challenge on the international front.

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