Difference Between Tuberculosis and Bronchitis

Respiratory diseases are among the most common ailments affecting people worldwide. Two notable conditions within this category are tuberculosis (TB) and bronchitis Tuberculosis, a serious infectious disease, requires long-term antibiotic treatment and public health interventions to control its spread. Bronchitis, particularly in its chronic form, is often related to environmental and lifestyle factors, with management focusing on symptom relief and improving lung function.

Comparative Table: Tuberculosis vs Bronchitis

Below is the difference betwen Tuberculosis and Bronchitis in the tabular format: 

Aspect Tuberculosis (TB) Bronchitis
Cause Bacterial infection (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) Viral (acute), smoking or environmental factors (chronic)
Transmission Airborne (coughing, sneezing) Respiratory droplets (acute), not typically airborne (chronic)
Contagious Highly contagious Acute bronchitis is contagious; chronic bronchitis is not
Symptoms Persistent cough, coughing up blood, fever, weight loss Persistent cough, mucus production, wheezing, chest discomfort
Diagnosis Tuberculin skin test, chest X-ray, sputum culture Clinical symptoms, chest X-ray, sometimes viral testing
Treatment Long-term antibiotics (isoniazid, rifampicin, etc.) Symptomatic relief (rest, fluids, OTC medications), smoking cessation (chronic)
Prognosis Can be cured with treatment; drug-resistant strains a concern Acute cases typically resolve within weeks; chronic managed with lifestyle changes
Public Health Impact Significant global health challenge Contributes to COPD burden; focus on prevention and management

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What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is a chronic bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It primarily affects the lungs but can spread to other organs.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TB remains one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. In 2022, there were an estimated 10 million new TB cases and 1.5 million TB-related deaths.The highest burden is observed in countries like India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and South Africa.

Cause and Transmission

  • The Causative Agent is Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
  • TB is transmitted through Airborne droplets from coughs, sneezes, or talking. 
  • Once inhaled, TB bacteria settle in the lungs and can enter the bloodstream, spreading to other organs. The immune system walls off the bacteria, forming granulomas. In some cases, the bacteria remain dormant, leading to latent TB, which can reactivate when the immune system is weakened.


  • Persistent cough (lasting more than three weeks)
  • hemoptysis (coughing up blood) and chest pain
  •  weight loss, night sweats, fever, and fatigue.


  • Tuberculin skin test (TST)
  •  interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs)
  • chest X-ray, sputum smear microscopy, and culture.


  • First-Line Drugs: A standard treatment regimen includes isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide for the first two months, followed by isoniazid and rifampin for an additional four months.

  • Drug-Resistant TB: Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) requires longer treatment with second-line drugs, which can be more toxic and less effective.

  • Duration: Typically 6-9 months for drug-sensitive TB; longer for MDR-TB.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs. It can be acute or chronic.

Causes and Transmission

  • Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viral infections, similar to those that cause colds and flu, and is typically short-lived. 
  • Chronic bronchitis, a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
  • Caused by smoking or prolonged exposure to irritants.
  • Acute bronchitis is contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and then touching the face. 


The symptoms of bronchitis are primarily related to the respiratory system and include:

  • Persistent cough, often producing mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Slight fever and chills (in acute bronchitis)


Acute Bronchitis

diagnosis is mainly based on clinical symptoms and physical examination. Additional tests, such as chest X-rays or sputum tests, may be performed to find out other conditions.

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis diagnosis involves pulmonary function tests, chest X-rays, and blood tests. 


Treatment aims to manage symptoms and improve quality of life, including:

Acute Bronchitis

  • Rest and hydration
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers
  • Cough suppressants and expectorants
  • Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic Bronchitis

  • Smoking cessation
  • Bronchodilators
  • Steroids
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation

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  • Tuberculosis: It can be cured with appropriate treatment, but drug-resistant strains pose challenges. Early detection and adherence to treatment are crucial for recovery. 
  • Bronchitis: Acute cases typically resolve within a few weeks, while chronic bronchitis is managed with lifestyle changes and medications to alleviate symptoms and slow progression of COPD.
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How is tuberculosis transmitted?

Tuberculosis is transmitted through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

How is tuberculosis diagnosed?

Diagnosis typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, tuberculin skin test (TST), interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs), chest X-rays, and sputum smear and culture.

What causes bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viral infections, similar to those causing colds and flu. Chronic bronchitis is often linked to smoking or long-term exposure to irritants.

Is bronchitis contagious?

Acute bronchitis can be contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. Chronic bronchitis, however, is not contagious.

How is bronchitis treated?

Treatment for acute bronchitis focuses on symptom relief with rest, hydration, over-the-counter medications, and sometimes antibiotics if it's caused by bacteria. Chronic bronchitis management includes smoking cessation, bronchodilators, and pulmonary rehabilitation.