Will be authorised to conduct TB drug susceptibility testing

The Central TB Division of the Ministry of Health has awarded the “Certificate of Accreditation” to the Intermediate Reference Lab at Government Hospital for Chest Diseases here, paving the way for the implementation of DOTS-Plus programme to treat patients with Multiple Drug Resistant (MDR) tuberculosis in the Union Territory.

Senior Health Department officials told The Hindu that the formal certification was received on Thursday. This was the 22nd lab in the country to be awarded the accreditation and would be authorised to conduct TB drug susceptibility testing. The accreditation followed the inspection of the facility by a three-member team on February 28, which consisted of experts in the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation.

According to officials, treatment under the DOTS-Plus programme for MDR-TB patients would begin from April. Out of 36 patients identified through screening, four would be treated under the DOTS-Plus initially.

The others would be included under the programme as and when the stocks of medicines arrive.

Unlike the normal DOTS programme that involves “alternate medication regimen” for six months, officials said the DOTS-Plus was a continuous programme that extends to two years, with drugs administered through injections in the first six months. Statistics provided by the Health Directorate put the total number of TB cases detected in 2010 at 1,437. The prevalence of MDR-TB among TB affected population in Puducherry was estimated at around three per cent.

Director of Health Dilipkumar Baliga said that with the recognition of the lab, the State Health Department would be relieved of the burden of funding treatment for MDR-TB. “From now onwards, the medicines would be supplied entirely by the Ministry of Health,” he said.