Drug-resistant TB, a major concern

Updated - October 18, 2016 01:02 pm IST

Published - March 24, 2016 12:00 am IST - HYDERABAD:

Drug resistance in tuberculosis-causing bacteria is a major concern for public health though the incidence and deaths from the disease has decreased over the years in the country.

On Thursday as the world observes Tuberculosis Day, India is expected to plough on with its efforts to combat the disease identified 135 years ago, which kills over 2 lakh people every year in the country. Over the last two decades, though the incidence of TB and mortality has declined, a growing concern is that the disease will eventually run riot as the killer germ Mycobacterium tuberculosis evolves to develop resistance to even drugs that have not been thrown at it.

Government’s TB India 2016 report Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) variants of the disease occurred in 15 per cent of treated pulmonary TB patients and among 2.2 per cent of those newly notified about their infection. Healthcare experts also speak of more dangerous variant, the extensively drug-resistant or XDR TB, attributed to callous drug use that results in antibiotic drug resistance.

The report also shows that Telangana and Andhra Pradesh put together have the third highest burden of tuberculosis patients in the country. In the light of threat from drug-resistant variants, health professionals warn that prescribed treatment protocols should not be tinkered with.

Yashoda Hospital doctor M.V. Nagarjuna points out that in many cases drugs reserved for drug-resistant or relapsed cases of TB are used as the first line of treatment.

One of the reasons for misuse is the over-the-counter availability of TB drugs, he said while pointing out that the right combination of drugs in appropriate doses when taken for the prescribed duration according to the intake schedule, the disease is curable. The concern among healthcare professionals regarding growing TB drug resistance was palpable at the 17{+t}{+h}International Congress on Infectious Disease that was held in Hyderabad earlier this month. Indian healthcare professionals set aside Zika fears and emphasized that drug-resistant tuberculosis is the country’s biggest health threat. Director General of ICMR Soumya Swaminathan said that patient tracking and improvement in diagnostics are required for India to overcome the burden of disease.

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