RESEARCHER, teacher and clinician Mary Edginton educated University of the Third Age (U3A) members on the history and facts of tuberculosis (TB) at their meeting at Settlers Park last week.
She explained TB goes back as far as 5000 BC when TB of the spine was found in mummies like Tutankhamen and his wife. Aristotle suggested it was spread in the air. There are primitive ideas about this disease which still abound to day, such as the role of evil spirits and that the sufferer has displeased the gods, Edginton said.
TB NEWS: Mary Edginton shared her knowledge of tuberculosis with members of the University of the Third Age (U3A) last Thursday Picture: CANDICE BRADFIELD
In the 17th century, a fifth of registered deaths in England were due to TB. It thrived during the Industrial Revolution because of the poor living conditions and half the population had what was called “the White Plague”.
German physiologist Dr Robert Koch identified the cause of TB on March 24, 1882 for which he won a Nobel Prize. This became World TB Day. Being exposed to lots of fresh air and constant rest was the only treatment up until the 1950s.
In the 1900s, improving social conditions caused the incident rate of TB to drop. The first successful vaccine was BCG, or bacillus of Calmette and Guérin, which was introduced in 1920 and is still used today.
“But it’s not a great vaccine,” said Edginton.
Short course treatment consists of four different drugs over two months or two different drugs over four months.
Africa is the worst hit by TB, said Edginton. South Africa has the third highest number of TB cases.
Symptoms include a persistent cough, sweating at night and weight loss.
“Even with HIV and Aids, it is curable,” she said.
A more recent development is that the World Health Organisation (WHO) released the DNA test for TB at the end of 2010. This means that results can be seen in 100 hours, which is faster than traditional tests.