Clinical Aspects of Adult Tuberculosis

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2015 Feb 6;6(1):a017848. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a017848.


Tuberculosis (TB) in adults can present in a large number of ways. The lung is the predominant site of TB. Primary pulmonary TB should be distinguished from postprimary pulmonary TB, which is the most frequent TB manifestation in adults (70%-80% cases). Cough is common, although the chest radiograph often raises suspicion of disease. Sputum sampling is a key step in the diagnosis of TB, and invasive procedures such as bronchoscopy may be necessary to achieve adequate samples for diagnosis. Extrapulmonary involvement, which may present many years after exposure, occurs in a variable proportion of cases (20%-45%). This reflects the country of origin of patients and also the frequency of associated human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) coinfection. In the latter case, the presentation of TB is often nonspecific, and care needs to be taken to not miss the diagnosis. Anti-TB therapy should be given in line with proven (or assumed) drug resistance. In extrapulmonary TB, adjunctive therapeutic measures may be indicated; although in all cases, support is often required to ensure that people are able to complete treatment with minimal adverse events and maximal adherence to the prescribed regimen, and so reduce risk of future disease for themselves and others.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Coinfection / diagnosis*
  • Coinfection / drug therapy
  • Cough / etiology
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma Release Tests
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Tuberculin Test
  • Tuberculoma / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculoma / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis / complications
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / complications
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy


  • Antitubercular Agents