Tuberculosis sounds like a disease of the past, something eradicated and with which we no longer have to live. Sounds like Miguel Hernández and Vivien Leigh. Both the poet and the actress who played Scarlett O’Hara in gone With the Wind (1939) died due to this disease. Unfortunately, throughout history many people have died of tuberculosis, since the treatment for this infectious disease was slow to be found and is long, so it requires great adherence to it.
Others wizards of letters like Paul Éluard, George Orwell; Franz Kafka, Katherine Mansfield; Anton Chekhov and Joan Salvat-Papasseit also died of tuberculosis. Simone Weil (philosopher and political activist), physicist Erwin Schrödinger O Srinivasa Ramanujan (Indian mathematician) also passed away due to this same cause.
And before them were Santa Teresa de Jesús, Baruch Spinoza, Louis Braille, Santa Rosa de Lima, Eugène Delacroix, Maria Blanchard or Henry David Thoreau. Even the writers Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Emily Brontë or Molière they succumbed to the bacteria that cause the disease.
In the World Tuberculosis Day, on Hipertextual we want to talk about this disease. Since, despite all the people – known or not – who have died because of it, it is an infection that is preventable and treatable.
What is tuberculosis? How is it transmitted?
As we said, everything is the fault of a bacteria. A bacillus-type bacteria, to be more exact. The Mycobacterium tuberculosis it is the culprit of everything and “almost always affects the lungs”, explains the World Health Organization (WHO).
This sickness is transmitted through the airWhen a patient “coughs, sneezes, or spits,” the tuberculosis bacilli pass into the air. “It is enough for a person to inhale a few bacilli to become infected,” they indicate from the WHO.
In fact, the organization itself warns that up to a third of the world’s population has latent tuberculosis. And is that the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis it can enter a person, but it cannot cause disease (or be transmitted) for a long time. That is, the bacillus remains for a time without infecting the person; but when it finally unfolds, it does so in style.
Symptoms and Treatment
Cough for three or more weeks, mucus, bleeding when coughing, fever, weakness or fatigue, chest pain, night sweats, loss of appetite and / or weight, chills … These are some of the tuberculosis symptoms. That, in addition, can be mild for many months, so they can go unnoticed.
Fortunately, can be treated with antibiotics. But the treatment is long and expensive. For six months, the administration of four antimicrobial drugs must be combined, indicates the WHO. With the medication and a administration this adequate, patients get ahead.
A complex treatment
Tuberculosis has been with us for a long time. Unfortunately, the treatment is complex and several situations had to be given to find the perfect medications. The first drug to treat tuberculosis was discovered in 1944, it was the streptomycin. Since then, the advances have been more rapid. Now a combination of three other drugs is used: isoniazid, discovered in 1952, rifampicin, introduced into treatment in 1967, and pyrazinamide, which was added in the late 1970s. The latter drug has allowed reduce treatment to just six months.
Current treatment for tuberculosis consists of a combination of isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide for the first two months. Later, another four only with isoniazid plus rifampicin.
“Since 2000, more than 49 million lives have been saved thanks to effective diagnosis and treatment, “says the WHO. For this reason, it is very important to see a doctor for possible symptoms.
Tuberculosis and COVID-19
The tuberculosis It is not a disease from another era or another century; although it is treatable and can be prevented, according to the WHO itself. However, with the new pandemic that also affects the respiratory system, the one produced by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus; It must be borne in mind that the combination between COVID-19 and tuberculosis can be a hand of cards that we do not want to have in our lives: “Cases of coinfección of both diseases can be serious and lead to higher mortality, “the Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR) warned in a press release.
Unfortunately, since COVID-19 has roamed the world; investment in research has focused on eradicating this disease. It is logical, it is taking many lives ahead and leaving many consequences in the patients who survive. However, we can’t forget about other diseases. In fact, SEPAR points out that “a reduction in the global detection of tuberculosis in three months of confinement can lead to a 13% increase in deaths from this cause”.
Tuberculosis in 2019 remained a problem
In 2019, 1st million people got sick due to tuberculosis, as reported by SEPAR in its statement. And in 2020, the pandemic has posed a problem for the correct diagnosis of this disease: “The infradiagnóstico y the delay diagnosis of tuberculosis, which have occurred during the pandemic, also are behind this worsening data epidemiological in this disease “; since we have returned to” the mortality figures that were recorded in 2015 “.
Despite the pandemic, there are diseases that we cannot forget either. A clear example is that of tuberculosis, which it has already taken the lives of many people throughout history and continues to do so. COVID-19 leaves many deaths in its wake, but other diseases as well.