To provide treatment to all infected cases, the health ministry is focused on first diagnosing new cases of tuberculosis, which has an the estimated incidence of 27 lakh in India, as per the India TB Report 2019. To this effect, an Indian manufacturer is scheduled to launch a new TB diagnostic technique in December, which is expected to cost less than existing tests and produces faster results.
According to the TB report, in 2018, the government recorded 21.5 lakh cases, a 16 per cent rise from 2017.
The existing diagnostic tests under government-run Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) consist of GeneXpert machine, which conducts a molecular test for diagnosis and takes two to three hours to produce results. Moreover, a single machine could cost Rs 10 to 15 lakh.
The Transasia Bio-Medicals Ltd, headquartered in Mumbai, has now announced an isothermal technology by December that will work on RNA (ribonucleic acid) amplification in the sputum to detect TB bacteria. This technique was developed by a company based out of Cambridge. The manufacturer first announced a cheaper test last October during the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Hyderabad. The automated diagnostic test can test a sample in 20 to 25 minutes and the machine costs Rs 1.5 lakh.
At present, a suspected patient undergoes GeneXpert test to check for the presence of TB bacteria and if it is resistant to first-line drug Rifampicin. If the patient is resistant to the drug, a culture test is conducted that may take two to three weeks to produce results.
India has 1,180 GeneXpert facilities and was able to conduct 24 lakh tests in 2018, states the TB report.
While India has set 2025 as the target to eliminate TB, to achieve that, the country needs an annual reduction by 10 per cent in cases as opposed to the current decline rate of 1.7 per cent.
India holds over 25 per cent of the global TB burden. The country is aiming to diagnose all new cases in order to achieve the 2025 elimination.
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