Tuberculosis Bacteria. Courtesy of Trudeau Institute.Article by Connor Celeste, HSL Student Intern, 2015.

Scientific Name: Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Common Names: Consumption, Tuberculosis, TB, Wasting Disease


Tuberculosis is a disease spread by a bacteria. It travels through the air by methods such as coughing, sneezing, and talking. If it is breathed in by a viable host it will either spread and give the individual a full-blown infection or it can become a latent form of TB. Latent Tuberculosis is not infectious, but will remain within the host unless it is killed off. If the individual cannot fight the disease off then the correct medication may be able to. 

Then and Now

There was a time in history when 1 in 7 people died of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis has been around since the time of the pharaohs. While in modern day we can combat infection with various antibiotics, we are still unable to fully eradicate this deadly bacteria. There are forms of TB that are antibiotic resistant or even completely immune to medication. The reason for this occurring is a multifaceted one and can be explored on the website of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

TB in the United States

In 1894 the first laboratory dedicated to the identification and research of Tuberculosis was established by Dr. E. L. Trudeau.  He successfully recreated the process of identifying the bacteria as it was named then Tubercle Bacillus.  The reason that the Saranac Lake area became a haven for Tuberculosis patients is due to the theory that the mountain air could stop tuberculosis.  Dr. E. L. Trudeau wanted to test this theory and found it to be partly true.  The Rabbit Island Experiment brought to light the health benefit of the lifestyle one experiences in the Adirondacks.


An effective treatment for Tuberculosis  was perfected in the early 1950’s.  Following the development of Streptomycin in 1946 two other drugs were derived and combined into a multi-drug regimen lasting 6-9 months. This did not end the spread of TB. While a smaller percentage of people die from TB in modern day compared to the time of its isolation, it is still estimated that 1 in 3 people have some form of Tuberculosis in their body.


For a more in-depth view of how Tuberculosis spreads and how we test for it, please see the website of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Poem About TB - Source Unknown

TB or not TB

Consumption be done about it?

Of cough! Of cough!

It's not the cough that carries you off

It's the coffin they carry you off in

Not often - Just once!