A new modelling study has estimated that the Covid-19 pandemic could significantly increase the global burden of tuberculosis due to disruptions to health services, and delays to diagnosis and treatment. In India, it estimates TB will cause an additional 95,000 deaths in the next five years. The study is published in the European Respiratory Journal.
Researchers estimated additional TB deaths and cases in China, India and South Africa over the next five years. They hypothesised that social distancing might reduce TB incidence as the bacteria behind the disease is transmitted via droplets — similar to the coronavirus. Even after taking this reduced transmission into account, the most likely scenario was estimated to result in more than 110,000 additional TB deaths (95,000 in India, 13,000 in South Africa and 6,000 in China). In the worst case scenario, this number could rise to up to 200,000 additional deaths, the researchers estimated.
The researchers referred to early anecdotal information from China, India and South Africa that suggests that the number of people being diagnosed and treated for TB has fallen significantly. These three countries make up approximately 40% of the global TB cases. The researchers modelled different scenarios with various implementations of social distancing measures and health service disruption lasting for six months, to come up with their estimates.
The study was conducted by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Lancaster University.
Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
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