Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

Are COVID Patients More Vulnerable to Tuberculosis?

By Dr. Ankit Singhal

Ankit SinghalMost of the symptoms of Covid-19 in hospitalized patients are resolved within a year, however, around one half still experience at least one persistent symptom, reveled by study published in The Lancet.

Around one in three patients still experiences the breathing issues which may lead to Tuberculosis due to week lungs. The reason for increased likelihood of tuberculosis in post-Covid patients can be explained by factors like altered immunity, lung inflammation and stress due to Covid, use of steroids for Covid treatment and worsening of blood sugar control. A delay in diagnosis of TB also has been reported since symptoms of tuberculosis are similar to symptoms of post covid / Long Covid. So If you are having any symptoms that are persistent after Covid like a low-grade fever, cough, decreased appetite, weight loss, night sweating or any other complaints you need to visit a pulmonologist to rule out active tuberculosis.

Cases of misdiagnosis can also add on to the increased burden of TB during the pandemic. WHO says 5%-15% of people suffering from latent TB are at risk of reactivation of TB. Many times, people attribute the fever to typhoid-like illness, manifestations for which include prolonged fever and weakness. Hence, a comprehensive evaluation is required for any fever lasting more than two weeks, or weight loss or poor appetite or prolonged cough/diarrhea any change in health status needs to be monitored by a qualified health professional. It is still uncertain about rise of TB in post COVID patients. While there is no conclusive evidence yet to establish that COVID-19 can directly trigger an increase in tuberculosis, TB cases have indeed been going up in most of the states, especially in the post-COVID phase. However, emerging evidence from various studies suggest that COVID and TB share a dysregulation of immune responses and the possibility of COVID-19 activating dormant/latent TB infection or triggering re-infections in those recovering from COVID is indeed real.

Somehow people have avoided the regular medical checkups including TB detection during pandemic. This is a disease which aggravates slowly. So it is always advisable Keep taking your TB treatment as prescribed. There is no clear evidence that active TB disease puts you at increased risk of COVID-19 infection, but we do know that people have worse health and treatment outcomes if their TB treatment is stopped or interrupted.

The author, Dr. Ankit Singhal, is a Pulmonologist at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, New Delhi.

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