TB in prison may have damaged Madiba’s lungs

2013-06-16 14:00

President Nelson Mandela’s recurring lung infection may be explained by the conditions in which he was kept in prison.

Mandela was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) in 1988 while incarcerated at Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. It is not clear whether he had pulmonary TB, which affects the lungs and often leaves the lung tissue scarred.

Two local pulmonologists told City Press this week that if Mandela had this type of TB and the effects were severe, it may have damaged his lungs.

Professor Guy Richards of Wits University said: “If Mandela’s lungs were damaged by TB it could mean the damaged tissue has been colonised with bacteria, which makes him vulnerable to recurrent infections.”

Professor Umesh Lalloo, former dean of the Nelson Mandela Medical School at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, shared this view.

He explained: “Most patients are completely cured of TB but a long-standing infection may damage the lung architecture, thus reducing the ability to cope with future lung infections.”

But he cautioned that this was mere speculation, “because Mandela’s doctors are the only people who can tell you the truth”.

The presidency and Mandela’s family have been tight-lipped about the cause of his recurrent lung infection since his admission to Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria a week ago.

They have only issued statements saying that he was in a serious but stable condition.

Many have speculated that he has pneumonia, for which he was treated in April. Pneumonia is a common lung infection among the elderly but if it recurs and the patient has no history of lung damage, it could spell trouble, according to Richards.

He explained: “It could mean the patient has aspiration pneumonia, which results from inhaling foreign material, usually food, liquids, vomit or secretions from the mouth into the lower airways and causes inflammation of the lungs.”

“This type of pneumonia is common in people who have suffered a stroke and find it difficult to swallow,” he said.

While the guessing game continues, Mandela is reportedly responding well to treatment.

What is pneumonia?

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.