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Unglamorous TB continues to kill

Updated: Feb 18, 2019


Reporting on TB doesn’t get the millennial media the TRP they are hungry for and the ad revenue that goes with it, so this dreaded disease continues to ravage the country unhindered and unchallenged. Despite impressive growth rates in GDP and other such macro-economic indices, India continues to be the country with the highest burden of TB. Out of the global burden of 9.6 million TB cases, 2.2 million live in India as per the census figures of 2011 and the picture seems to be getting worse with the number touching 2.79 million cases in the past couple of years (Global TB Report 2017 and India TB Report 2018)


It is true that TB is no longer the death sentence that it was just a few decades ago, when TB sanatoria were the last resort for countless victims who would be ostracized and banished from the mainstream society, almost akin to the leprosy colonies of Biblical fame. Today, we have fairly affluent middle-class TB patients who undergo the rather prolonged anti-Koch’s regimen and come out without a trace of ill health. But alas, the teeming millions living below the poverty line in overcrowded and unsanitary slums in urban sprawls will continue to increase in numbers as well as promote the emergence of multi-drug resistant cases of tuberculosis, with outcomes worse than that of even cancer.


The real masses that need the best of anti-TB therapy are pitiably ineligible for the high-quality medicines that money can buy, so most of them end up buying cheap substitutes, of which in any case they don’t complete the course as stipulated by doctors, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle of poor compliance, resistance development, poorer compliance and more resistance development.


One basic problem lies in looking at TB just like any other infectious disease, which it is and it is not at the same time. Good nutrition cum respiratory hygiene along with better living conditions that will boost body resistance will go more than half way in eradicating this disease and that is precisely where we as a nation fail. Our medical care institutions boast of five-star facilities for all kinds of ailments but not for the lowly TB. As long as this disparity continues, there is no hope for the hapless millions that merely add numbers to the burgeoning TB population.

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