New Delhi: With 1.8 million new cases of tuberculosis every year, India desperately needs more efficient prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The World Health Organisation has been endorsing a medical test called XPERT MTB.
Dr Nata Manabde, WHO India Director said, "It's faster, quicker. The WHO believes that this can change the TB dynamics in the country."
Quicker diagnosis would lead to more efficient treatment. The new test allows for a diagnosis in 90 minutes as opposed to the traditional tests - that take at least 90 days.
At a government DOTS centre, a patient has an option of three tests.
The first is Sputum Microscopy - a basic test for TB that can give results in about 8 hours. But at times gives false negatives. ESPLY for those who are HIV positive and that can waste crucial time, needed for treatment.
After coupling it with an X-ray report, the doctor may ask for a second test. The Sputum Culture method, but results take between four-six weeks. The third test is the LPA or line probe assay test - that can detect drug resistant TB.
This test is only available at four centres across the country and is advised to TB patients only when they don't respond to treatment - that is after about 5 months of observation.
In comparison, the proposed new TB test XPERT measures up well. It can
test for TB status and drug resistance simultaneously within 90 minutes as against weeks in other tests.
It saves crucial treatment time for patients with drug resistant TB that's about 50, 000 new drug resistant TB patients every year.
World-wide, cost will be a factor - here in India, with the government evaluation pending at CMC Vellore, the estimated cost is Rs 2500 a test. That should translate into Rs 800 per person, with government subsidies.