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Posted on March 25th, 2020
If infection with coronavirus occurs in people with asbestos fibers embedded in the lungs and diagnosed with tuberculosis, their risk of developing serious health complications increases significantly. Therefore, this group of patients should follow the necessary protective measures to avoid contracting the new virus.
At the moment, the U.S. is the country with the highest number of cases in the world and while everyone is at risk of contracting the virus, people with underlying lung diseases are the most susceptible to develop serious health complications following infection with it, including those who suffer from tuberculosis.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious acute viral disease, whereas tuberculosis is an acute or chronic bacterial infection. Both TB and COVID-19 affect the respiratory system, primarily the lungs, and have similar symptoms such as:
although the severity and duration of the symptoms are varied.
Some population groups are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 complications. In particular, a higher number of deaths have occurred in adults aged over 60 years with chronic lung diseases caused by prolonged exposure to dangerous materials including asbestos. Patients with underlying chronic diseases such as tuberculosis are at a higher risk of COVID-19-related death and hospital admission, as well as poor outcomes.
According to a new study, SARS-CoV-2 activates a stem cell-mediated defense mechanism that accelerates the activation of dormant tuberculosis. Up to 13 million people in the U.S. have latent TB infection, which means they have been infected by TB bacteria but have no manifestation of the disease and cannot spread the bacteria to others. If the novel coronavirus activates a sizable proportion of these dormant infections, it could seriously affect the health and economic situation. The study aims at quantifying this association so as to shape policies that could help avert a global TB pandemic.
What should health authorities do to ensure the sustainability of essential TB services during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Like most lung diseases, tuberculosis causes the sufferer to have a very poor immune system, which makes the person significantly more prone to more acute symptoms from respiratory infections such as those triggered by SARS-C0V-2.
To make matters worse, the symptoms of the new virus are very similar to those of tuberculosis, which makes it difficult for medical professionals to identify the virus in tuberculosis patients without conducting extensive tests. The main symptoms of COVID-19 are a lingering cough, fever, and shortness of breath, all of which we also encounter in the case of tuberculosis. Having tuberculosis and coronavirus at the same time implies a great risk of developing serious health complications. The following are some of the complications which can occur in people who struggle with both tuberculosis and the new virus:
While tuberculosis is caused by a bacterial infection and usually remains latent in the body, there are multiple risk factors that may trigger the onset of the infection. These risk factors are diabetes mellitus, low body weight, infection with HIV, medical treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, which weakens the immune system, as well as underlying respiratory problems such as lung diseases occurring as a result of asbestos exposure. Consequently, if you already struggle with a disease caused by asbestos exposure, such as lung cancer or pulmonary fibrosis, your risk of developing tuberculosis increases. The reverse is also valid, since having tuberculosis makes you susceptible to diseases stemming from asbestos exposure if you have toxic fibers in your lungs.