Mumbai is again grappling with drug-resistant TB. Over 25% people diagnosed with tuberculosis at a Mumbai clinic weren’t responding to the main line of treatment against the disease. Some 160 of the 566 patients who tested positive between March and September were resistant to TB treatment reports the Wall Street Journal.
Though preliminary – the Mumbai findings are ‘extremely concerning’ according to Dr Puneet Dewan, who was a senior WHO TB-control officer in India. Dr Dewan adds that the authorities are taking the results very seriously, as it makes the disease very difficult and expensive to treat.
And the WHO’s might be culpable for these new strains of extremely drug resistant tuberculosis. By focussing on the easiest-to-cure patients, the TB strains were allowed spread and become more dangerous. ‘It is very possible that Mumbai faces one of the worst epidemics of drug-resistant TB in the world. It is very concerning,’ said Dr. Dewan, who now works for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s TB program in India.
Overall, 6.6% of 4,400s diagnosed TB patients in the city, conducted at 18 clinics nationwide, were found to be drug resistant, an officer of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics said.
Indian officials emphasised that the data was only preliminary, because the study is continuting was also designed mainly to test the feasibility of GeneXpert machines and not to measure drug resistance.
But due to the scarcity of nationwide surveys on TB, the data did give an insight into India’s drug resistant rates.
But in the absence of a nationwide survey, the data offered a first look at what India’s drug-resistance rates might be.
The government plans to begin its first ever national survey during the next few months to determine the multi-drug-resistance nationwide, says Prahlad Kumar, director of the National Tuberculosis Institute from Bangalore.
The WHO and India estimate that there about 1 lakh Indians who have MDR-TB.
Small studies across India, suggest a large portion of untreated patients suffer from drug resistant TB. In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with 200 million people, a study published in 2008 in the Indian Journal of Medical Research showed about 20% of TB patients were multi-drug-resistant. This included a large number of newly diagnosed patients, 13% of whom were found to be multi-drug-resistant, the study said.