Tuberculosis in children
Pavithra Logitharajah and Beate Kampmann give an overview of this potentially lethal disease
- By: Pavithra Logitharajah, Beate Kampmann
One third of the entire global population is infected with latent tuberculosis, and 1.6 million people die from tuberculosis each year.1 In 2000 11% of all new cases of tuberculosis worldwide were in children.2 The burden of childhood tuberculosis has been estimated to be as high as 40% in some endemic areas.3
Transmission occurs by spread of respiratory droplets. Children with tuberculosis have far fewer bacteria in their lungs than adults so it is rare for children to be the source of transmission. Children usually acquire tuberculosis from older family members. Neonatal tuberculosis is rare.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a Gram positive bacterium. Its thick cell wall and its slow replication rate make it necessary for antibiotic treatment to go on for months. It is acid-alcohol fast because the cell wall retains the Ziehl-Neelson stain, resisting decolorisation by acid or alcohol.
When M tuberculosis antigens are detected, the body's normal response