There is a load of MDR-TB samples on IRL in Bangalore

The State has witnessed a steady rise in the number of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases even as rapid diagnostic tools are ensuring their detection. Of the 7,000 suspected cases that were referred to it since 2011, the State Tuberculosis Cell has enrolled 370 confirmed cases of MDR-TB as on March 1.

From 43 confirmed cases in September 2011 when the Programmatic Management of Drug Resistant TB was started in eight districts, the number rose to 108 till September 2012.

At present, 370 cases are enrolled under this programme, and 303 of them are from Bangalore, according to official statistics.

Worried over the rise of such cases, and to bring down the sample load on the State’s only specialised Intermediate Reference Laboratory located in Bangalore to diagnose MDR-TB, the State Health and Family Welfare Department is now setting up another Culture and Drug Susceptibility Testing Laboratory in Hubli.

Sources in the State TB Cell told The Hindu that this laboratory would become functional from June.

“Although the confirmed cases reported from Hubli are not more than 10, the new laboratory is being set up at Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences there as Hubli has better connectivity to other parts of Northern Karnataka. Till now, patients from all over the State go to Bangalore for the test,” the sources said.

That apart, the Health Department is planning to set up another laboratory on a public-private-partnership model in Manipal, the sources said.

State Joint Director for Tuberculosis Control Programme M.D. Suryakanth said that the rise in the number of cases is because of availability of rapid diagnostic measures. “In the 1990s it used to take three-and-a-half months for a test report to be ready. Now, it will take not more than 72 hours for the results of a MDR-TB test,” the official said.

Moreover, only eight districts were covered in 2011 when the Programmatic Management of Drug Resistant TB was started in the State. From November 2012, it has been extended to all districts and probably that is why more cases are being detected, he added.To ensure universal access of TB care, the government had a few months ago directed all private practitioners and hospitals to report each case of TB to the nearest health authority. “Following this we are detecting more number of cases and nearly 43,000 new cases of TB have been reported in 2012,” he said. Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium that primarily affects the lungs.