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Tuberculosis Drug Resistance 'alarming' in India

An alarming 20 percent of the people availing re-treatment of tuberculosis are at the risk// of developing drug resistance in India. According to a leading global health advocacy, India witness nearly 1.8 million fresh cases every year.

On the eve of the World TB Day, March 24, the Global Health Advocates (GHA), a Switzerland-based non-profit body, said that TB drug resistance is becoming a major threat for several countries and India is one of the forerunners.

"After Russia that has recorded a whopping 41 percent drug resistance among the re-treatment category, India and South Africa are facing the wrath with 20 percent of the patients of the same category at risk," said GHA president Bobby John.

Countries with over 10 percent risk include Brazil, Nigeria, Pakistan, Myanmar, Uganda, Thailand and Philippines.

Citing latest data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), John said: "Nearly 196,000 people registered themselves for re-treatment for TB in 2004 of which 39,000 showed drug resistance.

"Only 50 percent of those who availed of re-treatment were completely cured and 6.9 percent died. It is certainly alarming that close to 43 percent patients need extensive care," John told IANS.

He said India has a considerably good track record in providing TB treatment but there is a need for better health infrastructure to deal with this menace.

"Once a patient becomes drug resistant, he will spread it to many people and you can imagine the economic loss," John warned.

Earlier this month, the Indian government said it had cleared Rs.11.56 billion for the Revised National Tuberculosis Program (RNTCP)-Phase II.

"The RNTCP Phase-II of the World Bank Project has been approved by the government for the period October 2006 to September 2011 for a total outlay of Rs.11.56 billion," Minister of State for Health P. Lakshmi had recently told the Rajya Sabha.

"This includes credit of Rs.7.65 billion from the World Bank and a grant of Rs.1.99 billion for commodity assistance of anti-TB drugs from the Department of International Development (DFID)," she had said.

The RNTCP, popularly known as DOTS program, was introduced in the country in 1997 in a phased manner to achieve a cure rate of 85 percent of new sputum positive cases and to detect at least 70 percent of such cases. The entire country was covered by March 2006.

Till date, 6.7 million patients have received DOTS treatment averting more than 1.22 million deaths.

TB is still a major cause of death worldwide and 1.6 million people had succumbed to the disease in 2005, WHO said in Geneva Thursday.


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