Eight cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) have been detected in Dakshina Kannada since January.

MDR-TB is resistant to two of the four first-line drugs administered to patients. This requires treatment for two years with drugs that are expensive, toxic, and not particularly potent. Those who do not complete the first line of treatment are more vulnerable to the condition.

According to District Tuberculosis Officer Ramakrishna Rao, MDR-TB cases were detected following the programme to treat the condition began in the district in January. Of the eight, the cause for MDR-TB in two patients has been non-adherence to the nine-month schedule of consumption of first line drugs.

As part of the programme, the District Tuberculosis Office have been identifying persons suspected to have resistance for Isoniazid and Rifampicin – the two important of the four first line drugs. Samples of sputum collected from these patients are being sent for Culture and Drug Susceptibility Testing facility available at the State Tuberculosis Training and Demonstration Centre in Bangalore, which is the only accredited testing facility for TB in the State.

Each district can only send samples of 32 patients per month to this laboratory. The District TB Office has sent 16 samples in January and 18 in February. Samples from as many as eight persons have been sent in March, Dr. Rao said. The sputum samples are sent to the laboratory within 24 hours from the time of collection of sample by placing it in a special packing for maintaining cool temperature.

Those found positive for MDR-TB were being given second line treatment for a period two years. Dr. Rao said the second line treatment, which involved administration of four drugs and an injection, does cause side-effects to patients. “Patients do regret having stopped consuming first line drugs for which they have to undergo this pain,” Dr. Rao said.

Shashidhar Buggi, honorary secretary of the Karnataka State Tuberculosis Association, said efforts were under way to set up laboratories in Hubli, Bellary, Gulbarga and Mangalore. MDR-TB can be combated by having an effective mechanism to ensure regular administration of drugs to patients. There should be adherence to guidelines mentioned in the Revised National Tuberculosis Programme, he said.

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