SUNDAY MAGAZINE

Tuberculosis is curable

Work together: Awareness campaign is the need of the hour.  



DR. R. NARASIMHAN

Spreading the message will help control and fight TB.

WORLD TB Day (March 24) is a day when we remember Robert Koch who showed the world that TB is not a scourge, curse or god's punishment but a bacterial disease.

His discovery of the anthrax bacillus as a cause of a disease in animals and the fact that it could spread from animal to man made him famous. Koch's postulates are still considered as gospel in microbiology. In 1882 he got interested in the tubercle bacillus and in 1882 he published an article on the subject. In 1883 he discovered that Vibrio bacillus caused cholera.

His discoveries on tuberculin, Rinderpest, Trypanosomiasis and Babesia are world famous. He was awarded with Nobel Prize in Physiology.

Rethink the dangers

World TB Day is a day when we need to rethink the dangers of TB, establish what treatment is available, how the spread of the disease can be contained and what can be done to eliminate it.

A big problem in TB management is completion of the treatment. Once the treatment begins, the symptoms start disappearing and the patient feels normal and thinks there is no need to continue the treatment.

But the symptoms disappear because the bacillary population comes down. But some with the potential to carry the disease are still there. Similarly once the treatment is stopped the disease will relapse.

The main reason why people do not complete the treatment is because they do not like to travel long distances for the sake of drugs although they have been told that this can cause a relapse. TB sufferers who stop halfway through their course may not react positively to subsequent treatment and could be passing their own death sentences. This is where the DOTS is useful. This involves or puts the onus on the doctor or the organisation to see that the patient completes the treatment.

The government of the affected countries should put more funds into combating TB. More commitment is also required in terms of human resources - health workers, the frontline staff who deliver the DOTS strategy, are the key players.

Challenge ahead

We also need to bring together more partners, stakeholders, NGOs, community organisations that could help in the fight against TB. TB control is not anymore a government responsibility; it's a responsibility of all the stakeholders in the country.

Lastly, we know the causes and the symptoms of the disease. We know which drugs to give; what are the best regimens but we are still far from controlling this eminently curable disease.

The challenge now is to see that the government, patients, people and NGOs work together to bring this disease down. Joint action by healthcare workers and the general public is essential if the TB-monster is to be laid to rest.

E-mail the writer at drrnarasimhan@gmail.com

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Symptoms

Unexplained fever for more than three weeks

Cough

Breathlessness

Blood stained sputum

Unexplained weight loss

Loss of appetite

Diagnosis

A sputum examination for TB bacilli

A chest X Ray