Although there are very few cases of tuberculosis in Belgium, this disease continues to be a significant public health problem that requires continual vigilance.

How is tuberculosis transmitted?

The bacterium responsible for tuberculosis spreads from person to person through the air via droplets released into the air during sneezing, coughing, spitting, etc.
Only people with symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis are contagious. 

Latent tuberculosis and active tuberculosis

A person can be infected with the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis without necessarily developing symptoms of the disease and without being contagious.  This is called “latent” tuberculosis.

In a healthy person, the immune system is able to control the infection and keep it at an asymptomatic stage. In some cases, the organism can even kill bacteria. 
If the immune system weakens, the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis can then proliferate and cause symptoms to appear. 
When tuberculosis is accompanied by symptoms, it is referred to as “active” or “symptomatic” tuberculosis.

Only 10% of people with latent tuberculosis will actually develop active tuberculosis in their lifetime.

Sciensano contributes to the fight against tuberculosis by providing rapid diagnosis, by monitoring the antibiotic resistance of bacterial strains, by detecting epidemics, and developing new and more effective vaccines and treatments. The Belgian Official Medicines Control Laboratory (OMCL) of Sciensano, together with the European OMCL network, is responsible for the quality control of the tuberculosis vaccine prior to marketing.

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