According to a WHO Information Note — ‘Tuberculosis and COVID-19’, there is a need to maintain TB services during effective response to COVID-19

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  • It is important that the progress made in TB prevention and care is not reversed by the COVID19 pandemic.
  • It said that TB patients who have lung damage or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may suffer from more severe illness if they are infected with COVID-19.
  • Doctors claim that people suffering from TB and COVID-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes, especially if TB treatment is interrupted.

Significance for India:

  • India accounts for 27 per cent of the world’s total TB patients and is among the top 8 countries with the highest number of TB cases.
  • In 2018, as many as 4.4 lakh people died of TB in India which is 29 per cent of the total 1.5 million deaths due to TB in the world. 
  • Out of total 7 million cases reported in 2018 across the world, India had 2.69 million cases, while, according to data available, it missed out on tracking down 5.40 lakh cases.

Way Ahead:

  • There is a stronger case for concurrent testing for both conditions in individuals even if the clinical picture is atypical.
  • The pandemic can help trace 5.4 lakh missed out T.B patients as fear of Coronavirus will induce them for testing as symptoms for TB – fever, cough and difficulty in breathing — are almost similar to coronavirus. 
  • The current situation will also help identify people with latent TB – who have the disease but no symptoms. According to WHO, there are 25 percent of patients with latent TB.

About Tuberculosis(TB):

  • TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer. 
  • Each day, over 4000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.
  • Caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis, TB is an infectious disease. 
  • In most cases, TB affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) but can also affect other sites(non-pulmonary TB).
  • Latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) is a state of persistent immune response to stimulation by Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens without evidence of clinically manifested active TB. 
    • Someone has latent TB if they are infected with the TB bacteria but do not have signs of active TB disease and do not feel ill.
  • It is a contagion disease, which spreads when the people who are sick with pulmonary TB expel bacteria into the air, for example by coughing.
  • Rapid molecular test, Sputum smear microscopy, Culture-based methods are some of the diagnostic tests for TB.
  • Without treatment, the mortality rate from TB is high.

Initiatives of WHO:

  • Find. Treat. All. #EndTB: A joint initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) with the Global Fund and Stop TB Partnership, with the aim of accelerating the TB response and ensuring access to care, in line with WHO’s overall drive towards Universal Health Coverage.
  • A global TB report: Published by the WHO every year since 1997.

Initiatives in India:

  • There is free treatment of TB in India.
  • India aims to eliminate TB by 2025 under its National Strategic Plan, while the UN aims to eliminate TB by 2030.
    • It is driven by the DETECT-TREAT-PREVENT-BUILD approach. 
    • The focus is on early diagnosis of all the TB patients, 
    • prompt treatment with the right drugs and regimens along with suitable patient support systems including financial and nutritional support. 
    • This is supplemented by prevention strategies including active case finding, contact tracing and LTBI management in high risk populations, and airborne infection control.
  • Mass BCG (bacillus Calmette-Guerin) vaccination to prevent TB.
  • Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) was launched in 1993, offering free diagnosis and treatment for patients, rescuing them from otherwise sure death.
  • A Rs 12,000 cr allocation of fund over the next 3 years to fight TB.
  • A public campaign: TB Harega Desh Jeetega.


Image Source: Indian Express