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Updated: March 15, 2014 22:19 IST

Inexpensive, simple tests enough to detect TB

M. Sai Gopal
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Blood test named TB Gold prescribed by private practitioners, is meant to identify latent TB cases which are not treated

A simple blood test is enough to identify a variety of ailments related to the heart, kidneys, liver, thyroid, diabetes, infectious diseases such as viral or bacterial and many more. But, a blood test cannot accurately identify tuberculosis (TB) which patients and their relatives are not aware of and as a result, they often end up undergoing unnecessary and costly tests in diagnostic centres.

Due to this, the Union government in 2012 had banned serological tests and sero-diagnostic kits to test for TB. However, according to top health officials, prescribing blood tests to diagnose TB is widespread in Hyderabad and other districts in the State.

In fact, according to officials, a test known as TB Gold test which costs around Rs.2,000 and involves collecting blood samples from patients, is commonly prescribed by doctors and taken up in diagnostic centres across the State. This particular TB Gold test is only meant to identify latent TB cases, which is nothing, but persons who are infected with mycobacterium tuberculosis, but do not have TB disease.

“In India, we do not treat latent TB cases because 40 per cent of the population will have infection but not the disease. Only persons who have active TB disease should be treated. This is how wrong diagnosis happens,” says professor in Pulmonary Medicine, OGH, Dr. K. Subhakar.

The WHO and GOI approved tests meant to diagnose TB are sputum examination and molecular-based tests. Sputum, which is the thick fluid produced in the lungs, is collected and sent to a laboratory for culture. Molecular-based tests provide rapid and accurate results and are preferred choice. However, molecular-based tests are expensive and costs around Rs. 3,500 per person.

Recently, a few organisations have come together to form IPAQT (Initiative to Provide Quality and Affordable Testing) and are offering such tests for just Rs.1,600 per patient.

“Government has waived-off the customs duty to import the diagnostic kits from United States, which has kept the costs down. Instead of spending more for tests such as TB Gold and eventually getting misdiagnosed, patients should explore options,” says Dr. Subhakar, who is south zone Chairperson for RNTCP (Revised National TB Control Programme).

Doctors have also advised patients to visit their nearest State-run TB dispensary or a clinic for a second opinion instead of depending on private practitioners for everything.

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