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World Tuberculosis Day


Although India continues to be the largest contributor to global TB cases, there has been a decline in the number of cases in 2021.

  • On World TB Day, Prime Minister will address the One World TB Summit.


GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Tuberculosis
  2. TB Cases in India: Statistics and Trends
  3. India’s TB Elimination Target: Goals and Challenges
  4. Efforts to Achieve TB Elimination Target of 2025 in India
  5. Improvements in TB Treatment Protocols and Vaccines

About Tuberculosis

  • 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
  • TB is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs.
  • Transmission: TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
  • Symptoms: Cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
  • Treatment: TB is a treatable and curable disease. It is treated with a standard 6 month course of 4 antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer.
  • Anti-TB medicines have been used for decades and strains that are resistant to 1 or more of the medicines have been documented in every country surveyed.
  • Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a form of TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to isoniazid and rifampicin, the 2 most powerful, first-line anti-TB drugs. MDR-TB is treatable and curable by using second-line drugs.
  • Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) is a more serious form of MDR-TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to the most effective second-line anti-TB drugs, often leaving patients without any further treatment options

TB Cases in India: Statistics and Trends

India is the largest contributor to global TB cases. Here’s what the Global TB Report 2022 states about the incidence of TB in India:

  • Improved Reporting: Reporting of TB cases improved in 2021, although it didn’t reach pre-pandemic levels. The incidence of TB dropped by 18% in 2021, reducing to 210 cases per lakh population, compared to 256 cases per lakh population in 2015.
  • Drug-Resistant TB: The incidence of drug-resistant TB also went down by 20% from 1.49 lakh cases in 2015 to 1.19 lakh cases in 2021.
  • Pre-pandemic Levels: Despite the decline in TB cases, the numbers are still lower than the 24.04 lakh cases reported in 2019 before the pandemic, according to data from the government’s Ni-kshay portal.
  • Higher Incidence: A survey conducted across 20 states found a higher incidence of TB at 312 cases per lakh population.

India’s TB Elimination Target: Goals and Challenges

India has set an ambitious target of eliminating tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of the global sustainable development target of 2030. Here are the goals and challenges in achieving this target:

  • Target Goals: India’s national strategic plan 2017-2025 aims to report no more than 44 new TB cases or 65 total cases per lakh population by 2025. The plan also aims to reduce TB mortality to 3 deaths per lakh population by 2025 and eliminate catastrophic costs for affected families.
  • Current Incidence: The estimated TB incidence for 2021 stood at 210 per lakh population. However, achieving the target is a big task as the plan had envisaged an incidence of only 77 cases per lakh population by 2023.
  • Mortality: The estimated TB mortality for the year 2020 stood at 37 per lakh population, which is higher than the 2025 target of 3 deaths per lakh population.
  • Catastrophic Costs: The plan aims to reduce catastrophic costs for the affected family to zero. However, the report states that 7 to 32 per cent of those with drug-sensitive TB, and 68 per cent with drug-resistant TB experienced catastrophic costs.
  • Challenges: India faces several challenges in achieving the TB elimination target, including inadequate funding, weak health infrastructure, low awareness, and poor treatment adherence.
  • End TB Strategy: The goals are in line with the World Health Organisation’s End TB strategy that calls for an 80% reduction in the number of new cases, a 90% reduction in mortality, and zero catastrophic cost by 2030.

Efforts to Achieve TB Elimination Target of 2025 in India

  • Active Case Finding: The government is actively looking for TB cases among vulnerable and co-morbid populations and screening for it at health and wellness centers.
  • Notification System: A Ni-kshay portal has been established to track notified TB cases, and the private sector has been called upon to notify all TB cases.
  • Improved Diagnostic Tests: The pandemic has led to improved access to more accurate molecular diagnostic tests like CB-NAAT and TureNat, with 4,760 molecular diagnostic machines covering all districts of the country. Additionally, 79 line probe assay laboratories and 96 liquid culture testing laboratories have been set up for the diagnosis of multi and extremely drug-resistant TB.
  • Universal Drug Susceptibility Test: The government has implemented a universal drug susceptibility test, which determines antibiotic susceptibility for all newly diagnosed cases, ensuring patients are given effective treatment from the outset.
  • Community Engagement Program: The government launched a community engagement program in which Ni-kshay mitras adopt TB patients and provide them with monthly nutritional support. So far, 71,460 Ni-kshay Mitras have adopted about 10 lakh TB patients under the program.

Improvements in TB Treatment Protocols and Vaccines

Treatment Protocols:
  • Newer drugs like Bedaquiline and Delamanid have been included in the government’s free basket of drugs for TB patients. These oral drugs can replace the injectable kanamycin, which has severe side effects like kidney problems and deafness.
  • Shorter three- and four-month courses of anti-tubercular drugs are being researched instead of the existing six-month therapy to reduce treatment duration and dropouts.
  • The government has included newer drugs in the National List of Essential Medicines, giving them the power to regulate the market price.
  • Researchers are studying newer ways of preventing TB infection, as the existing BCG vaccine offers limited protection to adults and doesn’t prevent people from getting infected or re-activating a latent infection.
  • Trials are underway to test the effectiveness of a vaccine called Immuvac, developed using mycobacterium indicus pranii antigens, in preventing TB. It was initially developed to prevent leprosy.
  • Researchers are testing the vaccine candidate called VPM1002, a recombinant form of the BCG vaccine modified to express TB antigens better, resulting in better immune system training and protection against TB.
  • Researchers are studying whether the existing BCG vaccine booster shot should be given to household contacts of a person with active tuberculosis.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023