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Just Breathing

Aerosols may contribute more to the spread of tuberculosis than previously recognized, the New York Times reports.

Tuberculosis, which is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, was long though to primarily be transmitted by coughing, with some bacteria being passed on by breathing, but a new analysis suggests that 90 percent of the M. tuberculosis a person with TB expels is as aerosols, the Times says. The analysis, it notes, was presented virtually at a conference.

The Times adds that the University of Cape Town's Ryan Dinkele and colleagues found that coughing still releases the most bacteria at a time, but that with more breaths in a day than coughs, more bacteria is emitted by breathing.

Experts tell the Times that the findings suggest a stronger TB screening program is needed. "We just need to screen the entire population, just like you would do if you're looking for a lot of COVID," Robert Horsburgh, Boston University epidemiologist who was not involved in the work, tells the Times.