Tuberculosis, or TB, spreads via contaminated droplets in the air, according to Mayo Clinic. The cause is a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis found in the microscopic, airborne droplets. The sneezes, coughs, spits and laughs of a TB patient can result in the spread of the illness.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis thrives in environments with a blood supply and oxygen source, according to WebMD. Because of this, the bacteria is found primarily in the lungs, although it can spread to other areas of the body. TB is difficult to catch from strangers; people are more likely to develop it when they have regular contact with an infected patient.
Certain individuals are more likely to develop TB, as WebMD states. This includes patients with HIV, doctors and nurses caring for TB patients, people who live in crowded environments such as prisons, homeless individuals with poor access to health care, those who abuse drugs and alcohol, and people spending time in areas where TB is prevalent. Mayo Clinic highlights further risk factors that include those with weak immune systems, such as children, diabetes patients and persons undergoing chemotherapy.
Some forms of TB are now drug-resistant, according to Mayo Clinic. This is due to some strains developing the ability to withstand antibiotics.