Tuberculosis is a disease that affects the respiratory tract, caused by a chronic bacterial infection supported by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and characterized by the formation of granulomas (once called tubercles, hence the name “tuberculosis”) in infected tissues and by accentuated cell-mediated hypersensitivity.
The infection occurs from human to human through the respiratory tract. When coughing, the affected person emits tiny droplets (known as “Flügge droplets”) into the surrounding air. These droplets contain tubercle bacilli, which may then be inhaled by other people near the patient.
This pathology shows subtle symptoms that are often confused with other respiratory tract diseases. These are: weight loss, asthenia, fever, night sweats, cough, chest pain, hemoptysis (expectoration of blood) and dyspnoea.
Confirmation of the infection occurs by subjecting the patient to the tuberculin test, which is the method of election for the screening of infected persons; however, its low sensitivity and specificity, as well as the possibility of false positives and negatives, are well known.
When an infected subject shows no signs (radiological, clinical or bacteriological) or symptoms of tuberculous activity, it is possible to speak of latent tuberculosis infection. The immune system of the infected person, however, expresses specific antibodies, but the bacterial load is kept under control and thus in a state of inactivity (dormant bacilli).
Tuberculosis represents a grave medical and health emergency throughout the world today: while prevention through vaccination campaigns and the attention to sanitary conditions remains fundamental, fortunately there are also many molecules able to constitute an effective approach to the treatment of this pathology, provided that an early diagnosis, aimed at avoiding further problems and complications, is carried out promptly.
Another problem linked to this pathology is the existence of bacterial strains that have become resistant to a specific treatment or even to various molecules: in this case we talk about multi-resistant tuberculosis, a pathology that still represents a partially unresolved challenge for scientific and clinical research.
Overall, although significant progress has been made in the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, this disease is still today one of the most common causes of death worldwide, especially in areas where there are no adequate resources for care and prevention or in those cases where bacterial strains have become resistant to available treatments.
Historically a significant protagonist in the area of tuberculosis and the first company in the world to market an effective anti-tuberculosis vaccine, PIAM today confirms its unconditional commitment to make available in Italy the necessary treatments for the prevention and therapy of this important pathology.