Tuberculosis (consumption) is a bacterial infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs.


Tuberculosis (consumption) is a bacterial infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs. The bacteria are transmitted through droplet infection. Apart from asymptomatic and mild cases, the disease can also cause severe coughing with blood-stained sputum, fever and shortness of breath, among other things. Don’t delay going to the doctor if these symptoms occur. The vaccination is no longer recommended.



  • Symptoms can occur 4 to 8 weeks after the initial infection
  • Usually asymptomatic, bacteria are inactive
  • Approx. 25% of the world's population carry the TB bacteria
    • Latent infection, not contagious
  • Developed countries: HIV/Aids and immigration have caused an increase in case numbers and impact

Initial stage (primary tuberculosis)

Post-primary or reactivation stage

  • Encapsulated primary infection is reactivated, often because of immune deficiency
  • Worsening of general health
  • Severe cough producing yellowish-green, sometimes bloody phlegm
  • Shortness of breath
  • High fever
  • Any organ can be affected: lymph nodes, bones, skin, bowel, urinary tract, meninges, etc.

Causes and treatment


Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Blood test
  • Search for pathogen (direct or indirect)
    • Tuberculin skin test
    • Interferon-y release assay
    • Sputum analysis (e.g. phlegm)
  • Imaging tests
    • Chest x-ray
    • CT scan (computed tomography), if necessary
Possible therapies
  • Standard: four-fold combination therapy (medication)
    • Tuberculostats (anti-TB medication)
    • Duration: as a rule, 6 months
  • Isolation for active tuberculosis (contagious)
  • BCG vaccination is no longer recommended (given by way of exception)

What can I do myself?

  • Symptoms occur
    • Don’t delay a visit to the doctor
    • Wear a face mask
  • Pregnancy: no contact with tuberculosis patients (to protect the unborn baby)
  • General
    • Healthy lifestyle and diet (to strengthen the immune system)
    • Apply general hygiene measures

When to see a doctor?

  • Feeling unwell/fever after travelling to a developing country
  • Coughing producing bloody phlegm/sputum
  • Chronic coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Doctor is required to report the disease

Further information

Federal Office of Public Health, FOPH (_Bundesamt für Gesundheit, BA_G)

Swiss Lung Association, Tuberculosis Competence Centre (Lungenliga Schweiz, Kompetenzzentrum Tuberkulose)


tuberculosis, TB, Koch’s disease, consumption

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.