Sharing the second highest multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) burden in the world after China, India is set to launch a new drug to fight the disease on World TB Day on March 24, said Soumya Swaminathan, secretary, department of health and research, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, on Saturday.
Swaminathan was in the city to deliver the 11th Professor B K Bachhawat Memorial Lecture, “Can we eliminate Tuberculosis in our lifetime?”, at Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH), Sector 39.
The drug has been approved by US-FDA and will be launched in all government facilities across the country as a second line of treatment for adult patients and will be closely monitored, she said.
“All the diseases that have been eliminated from the country, be it smallpox, measles or polio, had vaccines to counter them. But, there are no such good vaccines for tuberculosis and the number of deaths caused by the diseases in the country is more than any other disease,” said Swaminathan.
Expressing concerns over the huge population suffering from latent tuberculosis and late diagnosis of the disease, Swaminathan said the current methods used for tuberculosis diagnosis in the country are riddled with low sensitivity and late detection. Paediatric tuberculosis is more difficult to diagnose, she said.
Asked about the increasing multi-drug resistance among tuberculosis patients, Swaminathan said the government’s next target is to ensure that there is one GeneXpert TB test kit in every district, so that patients can be diagnosed early. It is a molecular test performed using the sputum sample and gives result in two hours.
“Eradication of the disease in other countries was achieved after improvement in their socio-economic conditions. But for a developing country like India, we need tools for early diagnosis and shorter treatment plan achieved by new drugs and new combination of drugs,” she said, highlighting that under-nutrition is among the most common cause for the disease’s prevalence in the country.
Talking about how researchers across the world are working on development of new drugs to treat tuberculosis, re-purpose of the existing drugs and preparing combinations of new drugs, Swaminathan urged Indian researchers to do extensive research on developing drugs to reduce long treatment plans of the disease. “All registered medical practitioners in government hospitals were directed to upload the data of tuberculosis patients on the government website. However, that practice is not being followed,” she added.