Tuberculosis, like COVID-19, is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs, although it can affect any organ in the body, including your brain and spine. TB is caused by A type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an important risk factor for the infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
How is tuberculosis linked to COVID-19?
Both the diseases primarily attack the lungs and people ill with TB and coronavirus infection show similar symptoms – cough, fever, difficulty breathing. While both biologial agents spread mainly via close contact, the incubation period from exposure to disease in tuberculosis is longer, often with a slow onset, as per the WHO.
Does TB increase the risk of getting COVID-19?
The fact is, any damage to the lungs from a pre-existing condition like pulmonary tuberculosis may put a person at a higher risk for infections such as COVID-19. Although there’s no data yet that having TB increases your risk of coronavirus disease, health experts warned that people with a lung condition like TB may be more vulnerable to other infections, including COVID-19. As with other chronic health conditions, TB is linked to a higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness. WHO says current data on coronavirus infection in people with tuberculosis remains limited, however, people suffering from both TB and COVID-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes.
Do tuberculosis and COVID-19 spread in the same way?
Both tuberculosis and coronavirus spread via close contact between people, however, the exact mode of transmission differs.
TB is transmitted through the air (from one person to another) when a person with the disease coughs, sneezes, talks, laughs or sings releasing tiny droplets that contain the germs. If a person breathes in these germs, he or she can get TB. TB bacteria can remain suspended in the air in droplet nuclei for several hours, however, they don’t thrive on surfaces.
Coronavirus primarily spreads through direct contact and respiratory droplets expelled by an infected person when coughing, sneezing, talking, exhaling, etc. People can get infected by touching these droplets, which may land on objects and surfaces, and then touching their nose, mouth or eyes. Studies suggest that airborne transmission of COVID-19 may occur under some circumstances such as in healthcare settings, indoor crowded poorly ventilated settings, etc. Current guidelines for COVID-19 include hand washing, good respiratory hygiene, wearing masks, especially when outdoors, social distancing, etc.
Can tuberculosis and COVID-19 be tested using the same type of specimen?
The diagnostic methods for TB and COVID-19 aren’t the same as they require different specimens for the detection of the diseases. For instance, sputum along with many other biological specimens, are being used to detect TB using culture or molecular techniques.null
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) remains the primary diagnostic testing of COVID-19. Test for coronavirus are done most commonly by nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab or wash in ambulatory patients. However, sputum or endotracheal aspirate or broncho-alveolar lavage may be used in patients with severe respiratory infection. A healthcare provider may also take saliva or stool sample for PCR testing.
What can TB patients do to reduce their risk of COVID-19?
Whether or not a person has TB, it’s important for everyone to adhere to the guidelines to stay safe from coronavirus infection. Some precautionary measures include:
- Social distancing – staying at least 6 feet from other people
- Washing hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Not touching face with unwashed hands
- Avoiding close contact with those who are sick or have symptoms
- Wearing a face mask
While taking precautions to be protected from COVID-19, tuberculosis patients should also strictly adhere to their regular treatment protocols, or as advised by their physician