TB is short for tuberculosis. TB is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (shown here), and it usually affects the lungs. Mycobacterium tuberculosis was first identified in 1882 by a German doctor—Robert Koch—who received the Nobel Prize for its discovery.
TB has been around a long time and has affected many people throughout history, including the author George Orwell, the composer Frédéric Chopin, and King Henry VII of England. TB used to be called consumption because it seemed to “consume” people from within. In this photo, a nurse at the Group of TB Hospitals in Mumbai, India, dispenses daily medications to a man whose body is frail because of his TB.
Recently, a new form of TB has emerged, called multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). When bacteria are exposed to a medicine but not destroyed by it, they develop a resistance to that medicine. This is the case with MDR-TB, which is resistant to isoniazid and rifampicin, the two best anti-TB drugs. MDR-TB can often be cured, but only with extensive treatments of other medicines that are more expensive than isoniazid and rifampicin and have more adverse effects.