How is tuberculosis diagnosed?

The suspected diagnosis of tuberculosis is often difficult to prove. The following are used clinically to diagnose tuberculosis in children:

  1. There is often a history of an adult in the home with infectious pulmonary tuberculosis in the last 6 months (a history of contact).
  2. The child often comes from a poor, overcrowded environment and has a weak immune system (young, undernourished or infected with HIV or measles).
  3. There are clinical signs and symptoms of tuberculosis.
  4. The tuberculin skin test is usually positive (but often negative in children with malnutrition or HIV infection).
  5. The chest X-ray is usually abnormal.
  6. TB bacilli (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) may be found in the sputum, gastric aspirate or other body fluids
  7. A high index of suspicion is very important in the early diagnosis of tuberculosis, as tuberculosis may present in many different ways.
  8. Identifying the person who is the source of tuberculosis is also important.

The diagnosis of tuberculosis in children usually depends on a history of contact, clinical signs, tuberculin skin test and chest X-ray.

A number of new methods, such as PCR for Mycobacterium, promise quick, sensitive and accurate methods of diagnosing tuberculosis.

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