ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dealing with a Deadly Killer

India detects cases of total drug-resistant tuberculosis, but how should she deal with the problem?

The detection of 12 cases of total drug-resistant tuberculosis (TDR-TB) in just one hospital in Mumbai at the end of last year suggests a serious breakdown in public health interventions in preventing the spread of this highly contagious disease. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there were three million cases of tuberculosis (TB) in India in 2010 with more new cases every year than in any other country. Nearly 70% of the patients are between 15 and 54 years and 3,30,000 die every year due to TB. When translated into human costs these frightening figures suggest a huge productivity and social loss.

The detection of 12 drug-resistant cases in the P D Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai means that these patients have shown resistance to all the known anti-TB combination drugs. Given that the infrastructure to detect drug sensitivity is woefully inadequate in the country and that one TB patient can infect 14 persons in a year, this is disastrous news for public health.

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