What does WHO’s annual TB report mean to India?

According to the annual report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on October 30, TB remains the top infectious killer in 2016. Moreover, all the 7 countries that top the list of TB burden are from Asia or Africa. My Medical Mantra tries to ask experts about this unsolved pivotal problem country

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Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the most rampant causes of death in the country. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual TB report, the disease remains to be the top infectious killer even in 2016. The report further adds that, India tops the list of countries with highest number of patients infected by TB with an estimated 27.9 lakh patients reeling under the ailment in 2016. Up to 4.23 lakh patients have been estimated to have died.

But none of these figures seem to startle the doctors.  “Let’s understand certain things clearly first. There are two kinds of TB patients we need to tackle. We must focus on Latent TB. Basically, these are patients who do have mycobacterium, that causes TB but isn’t active yet. The minute the immunity of the person falls low, the person may then become an active TB patient. That’s why we must focus on boosting the immunity of the latent TB population, said Dr Lalitkumar Anande, Chief Medical Officer at the Asia’s largest TB Hospital- Sewree’s Tuberculosis Hospital.

“Once we do this, the next thing is to educate people. An active pulmonary TB patient coughs and sneezes from 50-100 times a day. And when we say this, something very basic to prevent the disease from spreading is cough etiquettes. We must teach our children and others likewise about coughing while covering our mouth. This could be of great help,” explained Dr Anande.

The WHO report added, of the 27.9 lakh estimated patients, only 19,38,158 TB cases were notified in public and private sector in India, which means that over 8.5 lakh cases are slipping out of the treatment purview. India, however aims at eliminating TB by the year 2025.

One of the observations that come to the fore is that all the 7 countries that top the list of TB burden are from Asia or Africa. Seven countries accounted for 64 per cent of the total burden, with India bearing the brunt, followed by Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa.

TB still, is a very class-stricken ailment. Unlike many other ailments, TB is the most specific to lower middle class as well as middle class. TB is still under-reported. Poor nutrition and congested unclean surroundings just add up to it,” said Dr Amit Kumar Nohwar, cofounder of ‘Doctors For You’ (DFY), Mumbai Project.

Spreading of TB is a very rampant possibility in the country. One of important facets of discussion that comes to the forefront is poor nutrition. “Having a heavy and nutritious breakfast is advisable to battle TB. Moreover, focus on having micronutrient rich food to help boost your immunity,” added Dr Anande.

Drug resistant TB is a further added problem, second experts. “What we all must realise is that one patient with TB can spread it to about ten people at least. Drug resistant TB has undoubtedly gone up. I think we need to work towards better standards of living and cough etiquette’s and so on,” said Dr Jai Mullerpattan, Junior consultant, chest medicine at Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre.