The war against drug resistant tuberculosis is set to receive a major impetus with government’s Central TB Division ready to roll out 300 powerful diagnostic machines capable of conducting a highly-sensitive molecular diagnostic test.
The decision to use another 300 rapid GeneXpert TB test machines across the country was taken after a nationwide study showed that the test can detect five times more cases of drug resistant tuberculosis.
Dr K H Sachdeva, chief medical officer of the Central TB Division, told The Indian Express that top priority is being given to fight against drug resistant tuberculosis bacteria.
A total of 114,778 patients were enrolled in the largest demonstration study across 18 sub-district level TB programme units in India, covering 8.8 million people.
In 14 such units, 10,675 and 70,556 presumptive TB patients were enrolled in two phases, respectively. In the two phases, 1,532 (14.4%) and 14,299 (20.3%) bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary TB cases were detected.
The new study also shows that introduction of Xpert MTB/RIF as initial diagnostic test in public health facilities significantly increased case-notification rates of all bacteriologically confirmed TB by 39 per cent and rifampicin-resistant TB case (or drug resistant TB cases) notification by five-fold, said Dr Sachdeva.
Dr Sachdeva is also the lead researcher in the study on ‘Use of Xpert MTB/RIF in Decentralized Public Health Settings and Its Effect on Pulmonary TB and DR-TB Case Finding in India’, published online on May 21 in PLoS One journal.
In India, where 3 per cent of the new tuberculosis cases are of the drug resistant type, this data implies that treatment could be initiated with confidence in any patient detected by Xpert MTB/RIF, regardless of prior treatment history.
The GeneXpert is a small machine that detects DNA sequences for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and rifampicin resistance by polymerase chain reaction.