TB drug resistance weaker than feared, survey suggests

WHO projections put incidence at 12 per cent, survey hints at 9 per cent.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Updated: July 15, 2015 1:32:24 am
tuberculosis, tuberculosis patient, tb, drug resistant tb, drug resistant tuberculosis, ndr tb, xdr tb, Health ministry, WHO, Indian express A doctor examines a tuberculosis patient in a government TB hospital. (Source: AP Photo)

Initial indications from the the first-ever tuberculosis drug resistance survey commissioned by the Ministry of Health show that around 2 per cent of new TB cases are resistant to some TB drugs while about 9 per cent of patients who have undergone TB treatment previously and have again been diagnosed with the disease are infected by the drug-resistant variety.

The interim results of the survey are still awaited but ministry sources say the findings are encouraging because WHO projections had put incidence of resistance in the 12 per cent range.

The trends were discussed in a meeting in the ministry Tuesday on Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme. Of the 4,840 TB cases enrolled in the survey so far, 3,061 are new while 1,779 were previously treated. Among new patients, 70-odd had been started on treatment for drug-resistant TB; among previous patients the figure was about 160. Patients who were treated previously but were diagnosed with TB again are important because they are more likely to spread the disease and chances of drug resistance are more in old patients. The survey aims to clock 5,214 enrolments.

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“No survey had ever been done in India to actually find out the extent of drug resistance among TB patients. That is why this survey was commissioned in September 2014. The interim results will be available sometime next year as enrolments are yet to be completed but initial trends show there is an incidence of 2.3 per cent drug resistance in new TB patients and about 8-9 per cent in those who had been previously treated. This is far less than the WHO projections,” said a source who was present in the meeting.

Between 2007 and 2015, the number of presumptive cases tested for multi-drug-resistant TB was 6,51,640 of whom 82,452 were diagnosed with TB of the MDR variety. “These were WHO figures and not data from actual surveys. They were extrapolated data from surveys and though we never believed this 12 per cent figure the survey was commissioned under the impression that maybe the resistance incidence would be to the tune of 10 per cent. Initial indications that it may not touch 10 per cent even in previously treated cases are very encouraging,” said an official in the ministry.

The ministry, meanwhile, has also lined up new initiatives including a missed-call campaign to reach out to TB patients. Since the disease was made notifiable in 2012, 2,78,171 cases have been notified, many of them from the private sector.

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