The pilot initiative that will use a WHO-approved test is aimed at improving diagnosis in public, private sectors

Chennai will be one of the four cities in the country to be part of the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme’s (RNTCP) pilot project to improve diagnosis of childhood TB in public and private sectors.

The project will be launched in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Delhi on April 1. Using World Health Organisation-approved test ‘GeneXpert’, the project is aimed at drawing the attention of doctors to the diagnostic facility for detection of TB, especially in children.

“It will be a three-month project. Each city will get one machine. In Chennai, GeneXpert will be available at National Institute for Research in TB (NIRT), Chetpet. Doctors from the public and private sectors can send samples from children for testing here,” Soumya Swaminathan, director of NIRT, said.

The tests will be done free of cost in Chennai, she added.

“The doctors can send any kind of sample from children — sputum, lymph node, pus, cerebrospinal fluid — for testing. They will get the result the next day. Quicker diagnosis is a major advantage with GeneXpert,” she said.

At present, GeneXpert is available at around 40 centres in the country, including private laboratories.

She pointed out that 300 more machines were on their way to various centres in the country. “But we need to prioritise children. As of now, sputum smear microscopy does not work well for diagnosing TB in children, whereas GeneXpert is definitely good,” she said.

Dr. Swaminathan said, depending on the success of the pilot project, the government could consider making the machines more widely available.

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