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Tuberculosis

Can Tuberculosis Reinfect Once Treated?

01/23/2009

Question:

Is it possible for anybody to get infected by tuberculosis(peritonitis in my case) once its treated correctly during the lifetime? Is this disease communicable?

Answer:

There are two situations in which someone who has completed treatment for active tuberculosis (TB) disease can develop active TB again. One situation is relapse due to the failure of treatment of the infection. Active TB disease is usually treated for a minimum of 6 months because the bacteria are very slow growing and we want to be sure to kill all of the germs. Sometimes, this may not be long enough, and after stopping the medication, one may develop recurrence or relapse of the infection (not common if the treatment is highly effective). The other situation would be reinfection. For people living in areas where there is a lot of TB disease, one may get exposed to someone else with active TB disease of the lung and become infected again with a different strain of the bacteria.

Only active TB disease of the lung is communicable or infectious to others (via aerosols). This means that only patients with TB of the lung can spread the TB germ to someone else. When a person is exposed to the TB germ, that person inhales the TB germ into his lung, and from the lungs, it can spread to other parts of the body. In your case, the TB germ spread to your abdomen. When we diagnose a patient with TB outside of the lungs (extrapulmonary), we always get a chest X ray to make sure the person does not have any evidence of lung infection. Sometimes, a person may have pulmonary and extrapulmonary TB at the same time.

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Response by:

Shu-Hua   Wang, MD, MPH&TM Shu-Hua Wang, MD, MPH&TM
Clinical Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases
Clinical Assistant Professor of The Division of Epidemiology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Larry S Schlesinger, MD Larry S Schlesinger, MD
Professor:
Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics
Microbiology Administration
Environmental Health Sciences
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University