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Tuberculosis is an infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which spreads from person to person when a contagious individual sneezes, coughs, or speaks and the TB germs are inhaled by others.
Tuberculosis usually infects the lungs but can infect any part of the body, including the kidney, brain or spine. Close contacts of TB cases, such as household members, coworkers or others who spend considerable time together, can become infected.
Most infected persons have latent TB infection (LTBI). Persons with LTBI do not have TB symptoms (i.e., coughing, fever, night sweats, coughing up blood) and are not infectious to others. It is crucial, however, that persons with LTBI receive treatment, because some persons with LTBI will eventually develop TB disease. With appropriate public health measures and with the right treatment regimen, TB can be prevented from spreading to others in the community, and patients with TB can be cured of this potentially life-threatening disease.