The Differences and Similarities of Pneumonia and Tuberculosis

Topics: Tuberculosis, Pneumonia, Pulmonology Pages: 9 (2516 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The Differences and Similarities of Pneumonia and Tuberculosis

Pneumonia and tuberculosis have been plaguing the citizens of the world for centuries causing millions of deaths. This occurred until the creation and use of antibiotics become more widely available. These two respiratory infections have many differences, which include their etiology, incidence and prevalence, and many similarities in their objective and subject indicators, medical interventions, course, rehabilitation and effects.

To explore the relationship between pneumonia and tuberculosis we will examine a case study. Joan is a 35 year old women who was feeling fine up till a few weeks ago when she develop a sore throat. Since her sore throat she had been experiencing chest pain, a loss of appetite, coughing and a low fever so she went to visit her doctor. Her doctor admitted her to the hospital with bacterial pneumonia and after three days of unsuccessful treatment it was discovered that she actually had active tuberculosis. This misdiagnosis shows the similarities between the two diseases and how easily they can be confused.


Pneumonia is a serious infection or inflammation of the lungs with exudation and consolidation. Pneumonia can be one of two types: lobar pneumonia or bronchial pneumonia. Lobar pneumonia affects one lobe of a lung while bronchial pneumonia affects the areas closest to the bronchi (O'Toole, 1992). In the United States over three million people are infected with pneumonia each year; five percent of which die.


There are over 30 causes for pneumonia however there are 4 main causes which are bacterial, viral, mycoplasma and fungal (American Lung Association, 1996). Bacterial pneumonia attacks everyone from young to old, however "alcoholics, the debilitated, post-operative patients, people with respiratory disease or viral infections and people who have weakened immune systems are at greater risk" (American Lung Association, 1996). The Pneumococcusis bacteria, which is classified as Streptococcus pneumoniae, causes bacterial pneumonia and can be prevented by a vaccine. In 20 - 30% of the cases the infection spreads to the blood stream (MedicineNet, 1997) which can lead to secondary infections.

Viral pneumonia accounts for half of all pneumonia cases (American Lung Association, 1996) unfortunately there is no effective treatment because antibiotics do not affect viruses. Many viral pneumonia cases are a result of an influenza infection and commonly affect children, however they are not usually serious and last only a short time (American Lung Association, 1996). The "virus invades the lungs and multiplies, but there are almost no physical signs of lung tissue becoming filled with fluid. It finds many of its victims among those who have pre-existing heart or lung disease or are pregnant" (American Lung Association, 1996). In the more severe cases it can be complicated with the invasion of bacteria that may result in symptoms of bacterial pneumonia (American Lung Association, 1996).

During World War II mycoplasma were identified as the "smallest free- living agents of disease in humankind, unclassified as to whether bacteria or viruses, but having characteristics of both" (American Lung Association, 1996). Mycoplasma pneumonia is "often a slowly developing infection" (MedicineNet, 1997) that often affects older children and young adults (American Lung Association, 1996).

The other main cause of pneumonia is fungal pneumonia. This is caused by a fungus that causes pneumocystic carinii pneumonia (PCP) and is often "the first sign of illness in many persons with AIDS and … can be successfully treated in many cases" (American Lung Association, 1996).

In Joan's case bacterial pneumonia was suspected because her immune system was weakened by her sore throat and her signs and symptoms correlated with pneumonia.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis was...

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MedicineNet. (1997). Diseases & treatments: pneumonia [Online]. Available
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O 'Toole, M. (Ed.). (1992). Miller-Keane encyclopedia and dictionary of
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