Tuberculosis latent is an infection with the TB bacillus that is present in the body, but does not cause symptoms or spread to other people. However, people with tuberculosis latent are at increased risk of developing active tuberculosis in the future.
Tuberculosis latent: Why is it important to detect it early?
Tuberculosis latent is an infection caused by the Koch bacillus, also known as the tuberculosis bacillus (Mycobacterium tuberculosis being the causative bacterium). The most remarkable thing is that it does not produce symptoms and is not transmitted to other people. However, people with tuberculosis latent are at increased risk of developing active tuberculosis in the future, especially if they have a weakened or immunocompromised system.
Tuberculosis latent can be diagnosed by a tuberculin test (also known as Mantoux), or a blood test. These detect the presence of antibodies against the tuberculosis bacillus. If the result of this test is positive, it is necessary to do additional tests to rule out the presence of active tuberculosis.
How can I know if I have tuberculosis latent?
It is common knowledge to report that this infection does not produce symptoms, so it is difficult to know if you are a carrier without doing a specific test. The most common test to detect tuberculosis latent is the tuberculin test, this test is performed by injecting a small amount of protein derived from the tuberculosis bacillus into the skin of the forearm and then observing the reaction at the injection site after 48 to 72 hours approximately.
If the test is positive, but you do not necessarily have active tuberculosis, like, right at that moment. In this case, your doctor will do more tests to rule out the presence of it and determine if you need treatment for tuberculosis latent.
It is important that you consider seeing a doctor if you think you may be at risk of tuberculosis latent, especially if you have had close contact with someone with active tuberculosis or if you have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as HIV.
Can it be prevented?
- Vaccinating newborns with BCG prevents severe forms in children under 5 years of age: It is better that newborns be vaccinated with this vaccine, we can avoid contagion as they grow, and thus the child develops the necessary antibodies to combat any contact with the agent.
- Good nutrition and rest: Indispensably, to prevent any type of condition it is necessary to have good nutrition, prepare healthy meals with lots of protein, this makes it easier to rest and perform better during the day. It is recommended to sleep at least 7–8 hours to feel better and be healthy.
- Frequently ventilate the rooms: If your house has windows, open them. Let the air ventilate and enter in your home. Oxygen is regenerated inside, and benefits the good environment and inhalation of air into your lungs. Natural light is also totally necessary for your body. Go for a walk, or exercise from time to time, create routines so that your skin regenerates, with vitamin D, that the sun provides so much.
- When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth with the crook of your elbow: If you have people around you, or even you are alone, and you are not wearing a face mask, use the crook of your elbow to cover yourself, preventing those sneezing droplets from spreading. in the air or near other people and can be inhaled.
- Take the medication for as long as the doctor indicates and have the studies done: For a speedy recovery, it is necessary to follow any order indicated by the doctor who is monitoring your progress, which is why you must take the indicated medications at the hours corresponding so that their correct effect can arise, after finishing them you must go for a check-up to determine if the treatment is working or if the bacteria have created some type of resistance (which yes, it can happen).
What is the indicated medication?
The treatment of tuberculosis latent is specifically based on the administration of a drug called isoniazid, this treatment must be administered for 6 to 9 months, everything will depend on the patient’s health status, its evolution or severity, and the doctor’s indications. This treatment significantly reduces the risk of developing active tuberculosis in the future.
It is important to note that treatment for tuberculosis latent is not necessary for everyone with a positive test, and should be evaluated by a doctor in each individual case. People at higher risk of developing active TB, such as people with HIV or those who have had close contact with someone with active TB, are more likely to need treatment.
What are the populations most vulnerable to tuberculosis latent?
- People with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV or who are receiving treatment for cancer or autoimmune diseases.
- People who have had close contact with someone with active tuberculosis, especially those who live or work in settings with a high incidence of the disease or hospitals.
- Patient who have traveled to or lived in areas with a high incidence of tuberculosis, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
- Homeless people or in extreme poverty, due to substandard living conditions and lack of access to adequate medical care.
- Person who abuse alcohol or tobacco, since these substances can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of contracting tuberculosis.
How did COVID-19 affect tuberculosis latent?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on healthcare around the world, and latent tuberculosis has been no exception. The unexpected interruption of health services and the decrease in the search for medical attention have made the detection and treatment of latent tuberculosis more difficult. For this reason, it has been observed that people with latent tuberculosis may be at increased risk of developing active tuberculosis if they contract COVID-19, underscoring the importance of preventing and treating latent tuberculosis for a long time.
It is important to highlight that the control of tuberculosis latent continues to be a priority in the fight against tuberculosis throughout the world, especially in the most vulnerable populations and in countries with a high incidence of the disease. Early detection and treatment of tuberculosis is essential to prevent the spread of the disease and reduce the risk of serious complications.