Tuberculosis Home > Causes of Tuberculosis
Cases of tuberculosis are caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This bacterium typically attacks the lungs but may also attack other parts of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. Tuberculosis may also be linked to certain risk factors, including alcoholism, IV drug abuse, and homelessness.
The cause of tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This bacterium usually attacks the lungs. However, it can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB can be fatal. TB was once the leading cause of death in the United States.
TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with active TB of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
Research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely to develop tuberculosis. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.
Specific tuberculosis risk factors include:
- IV drug abuse
- Crowded living conditions
- Immigration from certain countries
- Low body weight
- Certain medical treatments (such as corticosteroid treatment or organ transplants)
- Certain medical conditions, such as:
Most people who are aware of tuberculosis risk factors do not get tuberculosis. On the other hand, many who do get the disease don't appear to have any of these risk factors. People with known risk factors and those who are concerned about tuberculosis should talk to their healthcare provider.