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What is Mycobacterium Tuberculosis?

Updated at: Mar 30, 2012
Communicable Diseases
Written by: Himanshu SharmaPublished at: Mar 17, 2012
What is Mycobacterium Tuberculosis?

Mycobacterium Tuberculosis:  Mycobacterium Tuberculosis is one of the two organisms that cause Tuberculosis (TB), other being Mycobacterium Bovis. The infectious disease of tuberculosis has been affecting us since Neolithic times.

Mycobacterium Tuberculosis is a slow-growing organism in human body that leads to tuberculosis. Beginning with an infection, which is further catalysed by environmental conditions and multiply to cause changes within. The fatal bacterium can affect any tissue in the body, but lungs are most vulnerable. Tuberculosis is an airborne disease, which gets transmitted from infected person to others via several modes such as coughing, breathing and sneezing.

Infection starts from macrophage phagosome, and spreads to tissues or organs like joints, skin, central nervous system, lymph nodes, bones, urinary tract and abdomen. Mycobacterium tuberculosis travelling through lungs to other organs is also referred to as systemic tuberculosis. Whereas, mycobacterium tuberculosis penetrating deepest portion of the lungs is known as respiratory tuberculosis.

Bacterial component was discovered in 1882 by a German physician Robert Koch, which was later identified as cause of tuberculosis. This bacterial component, identified as ‘rod-shaped bacterium’, requires oxygen to grow in human body. Growth rate of mycobacterium tuberculosis is considerably slow in comparison to other bacteria, as these divide at every 15–20 hours. These survive in a dry state for weeks by withstand weak disinfectants. Its cell wall is quite unusual with high acid content, because of which it is hydrophobic and are resistant to oral fluids.

Types of Tuberculosis

Detailed below are the two types of tuberculosis:

  1. Active Tuberculosis: Active Tuberculosis is a health condition where bacterium is active in the body. In this condition, immune system is not able to limit bacteria from causing complications. Active tuberculosis patients are the ones that pass on the bacterial infection to masses. Tuberculosis infection spreads by means like coughing, sneezing and spitting.
  2. Inactive Tuberculosis: Also known as ‘latent tuberculosis’, inactive tuberculosis refers to the condition of a person in which body successfully fights against the bacteria and prevents further illness. In this condition, patients do not have symptoms of tuberculosis and cannot spread tuberculosis. On effect of conditions like HIV, the inactive tuberculosis might convert into active tuberculosis with collapse of immune system.


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