Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria of the mycobacterium tuberculosis family. It can affect any part of the body; however the most common area affected is the lungs and respiratory tract. It is usually spread from an infected person by droplets in the air when they cough or sneeze.
The symptoms of TB depend on what part of the body is infected, however general symptoms may include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, night sweats and a lack of energy

When TB has infected the respiratory system, this typically causes a persistent productive cough, which may be accompanied by blood-streaked sputum or, more rarely, the straight coughing up of blood. Untreated, TB may eventually be fatal.


Tuberculosis is found throughout the world. However areas of particular risk include the whole of South America, Africa (sub-Saharan and North West) and the tropical Asia-Pacific regions, including the Indian subcontinent and Indonesia. Routine vaccination of teenagers in the UK was carried out until 2005, so depending on your age, you may already have had the vaccine or have been tested to see whether you already had an immune response to TB and therefore didn’t require a vaccination.

Vaccination is only recommended for those under the age of 16 who will be spending long periods of time (3 months and over) in close contact, living/working with local people in areas that are known to have a high risk of TB. It is not usually recommended for people aged over 16 years, unless the risk of exposure is great (e.g. health care or laboratory workers at occupational risk), as evidence suggests limited effectiveness in adults over this age. It is not recommended in those 35 years old and over.

The vaccination is only given after a skin test has been carried out, to see if you already have an immune reaction to TB. If you do, you will not be given the vaccine. If however the skin test is negative, then a single dose of the vaccine is given.