Mumbai: The world is battling an epidemic of drug resistant tuberculosis. A disease which was declared a global health emergency in 1993, continues to grow unchecked even today. Thousand people succumb to this infectious disease every day in India, with estimates of more than a lakh people suffering from drug resistant tuberculosis. A preventable and curable disease has mutated into a lethal form - who is to blame?
Dr Zarir Udwadia, tuberculosis Specialist Hinduja Hospital said, "All of us are to blame. The very fact that this kind of tuberculosis exists, means that we have all failed as a community at a public health level, at a private level. At a public health level, while DOTS is being a great success, it turns its back on multi drug resistance. On the private side, one of our studies showed that prescriptions are very poor - wrong doses are given, wrong drugs, this again serves to amplify the problem."
And the result is the growing foothold of XXDR tuberculosis in India, a new and almost impossible to treat strain of tuberculosis. Though the government remains in denial, The latest study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research finds resistance is rising as Indians pop and misuse antibiotics.
Seven per cent of all new TB patients in Mumbai did not respond to any known tuberculosis medication and this could be a nation wide phenomenon. Fifty per cent of antibiotics are overused and misused by physicians and patients across the country. Forty three per cent patients self medicate with one out of four not even finishing the course.
If India has to meet its Millennium Development goals of 2015, it needs to reverse or atleast halt the incidence of tuberculosis by then. What steps can immediately be taken?
As we mark the World Tuberculosis Day, there is no denying the fact that tuberculosis fuelled by antibiotic resistance, continues to be a global threat, one that must be issued urgently. However, the discovery of a new TB drug after more than four decades, Sirturu, is the silver lining in the cloud.