PD Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre has been chosen as the country’s nodal center for a global genome study of 1 lakh TB patients to examine bacterial resistance in them. India will screen at least 6,000 patients during the course of the four-year study.
As part of the programme, researchers are exploring prospects to study genetic sequences of different strains of TB bacteria. The level of resistance that patients show to drugs and identification of each bacterial strain will help decide which drugs will suit a patient and the pattern of outbreak of the disease in a locality.
“This will take us to the next level. It will do away with GeneXpert machines and culture testing if implemented on a large scale,” said Dr Camilla Rodrigues, microbiology consultant at Hinduja hospital.
The United Kingdom has started genome testing for tuberculosis (TB) strains to treat patients.
The four-year study titled Cryptic began in January in eight countries, including China, South Africa, Peru, Vietnam, Germany and Brazil. It will be headed by Harvard University and funded by the Welcome Group and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Currently, India relies on molecular and smear tests for the diagnosis of TB and resistance in patients.
A treatment regime is then chalked out and the patient is re-tested after six months to find out if the bacteria has responded to the drugs.
The genome sequencing will show how much resistance the bacteria has to the 14 drugs used in the TB regime even before the treatment begins.
As part of the study, 6,000 patients’ isolates will be screened.
Hinduja will send samples of the new patients from across India to the Bengaluru-based Genomics Center for gene sequencing. It will take three days to study each patient’s bacteria strain.
After the initial symptoms of TB surface in a patient, it takes around six months to come up with the first correct prescription.
Doctors are hopeful that the research will help streamline the course of treatment and reduce the number of TB deaths in the country.