Can tuberculous infection spread from the lung to other parts of the body?

  • Yes. Infection with TB bacilli can spread from the lung, via the blood stream (TB bacteraemia,) to most organs of the body (extrapulmonary tuberculosis). The TB bacilli usually spread at the time of the primary lung infection. Sometimes tuberculosis of other organs presents soon after the primary lung infection. However, the TB bacilli often remain dormant in these organs for many months or years before they start to multiply and cause local tuberculosis. This reactivation of TB bacilli is usually due to weakening of the immune system.
  • TB bacilli can also spread to other organs via the lymphatics. Spread from the hilar lymph nodes is usually up to the cervical lymph nodes or down to the abdominal lymph nodes. Lymph nodes in the axilla or groin may also be involved. Tuberculosis of organs other than the lungs is not infectious to other people.

Tuberculous bacilli may spread from the lungs to other organs via the blood stream or the lymphatics.

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