THERE WERE 28 lakh tuberculosis (TB) incident cases reported in India last year and 29 lakh in 2014, against the 22 lakh that was earlier estimated for 2014, according to the World Health Organization’s global TB report for 2016.
According to the updated estimate, 4.78 lakh people died of TB (excluding HIV-positive people) in India in 2015, and 4.83 lakh died in 2014. The 2015 global TB report had estimated the 2014 death figure at 2.2 lakh.
The WHO also reported that six countries accounted for 60 per cent of new cases: India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa. Emphasising that TB cases in India are hugely under-reported, the report said that only 56 per cent cases were officially reported across the country in 2014, and 59 per cent cases in 2015.
National TB Control Programme deputy director general Dr Sunil Khaparde said that the aggregate numbers have increased since more cases are being reported. Notified TB cases increased from 2013 to 2015, mostly due to a 34-per cent increase in notifications in India, it was informed. Khaparde told The Indian Express that although the mandatory notification policy was introduced in 2012, and proportion of cases notified by the private sector has increased, many still do not report cases.
In 2015, there were an estimated 4.80 lakh new cases of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and an additional 1 lakh people with rifampicin-resistant TB (RR-TB), the report said. India, China and Russia accounted for 45 per cent of the combined total cases, according to the WHO report. In 2015, 61 lakh new tuberculosis cases were notified to national authorities and reported to the WHO.
According to the report, there were an estimated 1.04 crore new (incident) TB cases worldwide in 2015. There were an estimated 14 lakh deaths due to TB, and an additional 4 lakh deaths resulting from TB disease among people living with HIV. The report said that TB treatment averted 4.9 crore deaths globally between 2000 and 2015, but important diagnostic and treatment gaps persist.
Dr Madhukar Pai, director, McGill Global Health programme, Canada, said that higher TB estimates from India reflect the underlying reality. “India ignored TB patients for a long time in the private sector, and national prevalence and drug resistance surveys were not done,” Pai said. “The Indian TB programme is also heavily reliant on insensitive diagnostic tools such as sputum smears that miss many TB cases.”
As for India, Pai said the “message is clear: acknowledge the reality, collect better data on true burden of tuberculosis deaths and drug resistance, and allocate greater funding to tackle this huge problem.”