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The transmission of tuberculosis is complex. Necessary factors include a source case with respiratory disease that has developed sufficiently for Mycobacterium tuberculosis to be present in the airways. Viable bacilli must then be released as an aerosol via the respiratory tract of the source case. This is presumed to occur predominantly by coughing but may also happen by other means. Airborne bacilli must be capable of surviving in the external environment before inhalation into a new potential host-steps influenced by ambient conditions and crowding and by M. tuberculosis itself. Innate and adaptive host defenses will then influence whether new infection results; a process that is difficult to study owing to a paucity of animal models and an inability to measure infection directly. This review offers an overview of these steps and highlights the many gaps in knowledge that remain.

Original publication




Journal article


J Infect Dis

Publication Date





S636 - S643


Tuberculosis, infectiousness, susceptibility, transmission, Disease Susceptibility, Disease Transmission, Infectious, Humans, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Tuberculosis