Tuberculosis in India

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Scanning electron micrograph of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

In India, each year, approx. 220,000 deaths are reported due to Tuberculosis. Between 2006 and 2014, the disease cost Indian economy USD 340 billion. This public health problem is the world's largest tuberculosis epidemic.[1] India bears a disproportionately large burden of the world's tuberculosis rates, as it continues to be the biggest health problem in India. It remains one of the largest on India's health and wellness scale. India is the highest TB burden country with World Health Organization (WHO) statistics for 2011 giving an estimated incidence figure of 2.2 million cases of TB for India out of a global incidence of 9.6 million cases.[2] Compare India to Canada, where there are about 1,600 new cases of TB every year.[3] Citing studies of TB-drug sales, the government now suggests the total went from being 2.2 million to 2.6 million people nationwide.[4] Tuberculosis is India's biggest health issue, but what makes this issue worse is the recently discovered phenomenon of TDR-TB - Totally Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis. This issue of drug-resistant TB began with MDR-TB, and moved on to XDR-TB. Gradually, the most dangerous form has situated itself in India as TDR-TB.

"Within India, the Journal—using government data obtained through the Right to Information Act—has reported that India's drug-resistance rate is likely much higher than the 2% to 3% of TB cases reported to the WHO"[4]

. In India, TB is responsible for the death of every third AIDS patient.


World map with sub-Saharan Africa in various shades of yellow, marking prevalences above 300 per 100,000, and with the U.S., Canada, Australia, and northern Europe in shades of deep blue, marking prevalences around 10 per 100,000. Asia is yellow but not quite so bright, marking prevalences around 200 per 100,000 range. South America is a darker yellow.
In 2007, the prevalence of TB per 100,000 people was relatively high in Asia, and was highest in sub-Saharan Africa.[5]

Tuberculosis is one of India's major public health problems. According to WHO estimates, India has the world's largest tuberculosis epidemic.[6] Many research studies have shown the effects and concerns revolving around TDR-TB, especially in India; where social and economic positions are still in progression. In Zarir Udwadia’s report originated from the Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai, India explicitly discusses the drug-resistant effects and results.[7] An experiment was conducted in January, 2012 on four patients to test how accurate the “new category” of TDR-TB is. These patients were given all the first-line drugs and second-line drugs that usually are prescribed to treat TB, and as a result were resistant to all. As a response, the government of India had stayed in denial, but WHO took it as a more serious matter and decided that although the patterns of drug-resistance were evident, they cannot rely on just that to create a new category of TDR-TB.

"Paul Nunn, coordinator of WHO's STOP TB department in Geneva, described the cases as “a wake up call for countries to accelerate provision of proper care, particularly for multi drug-resistant patients”.[8]


The bacterium that causes TB is called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Inactive tuberculosis means that one can even unconsciously and unknowingly acquire the bacteria for tuberculosis within them but not even know about it because it is inactive. Whereas, active tuberculosis is the start of the bacteria developing, and the signs and symptoms begin to be visible. This is when tuberculosis is active within you, and is a serious issue leading to even more serious results. Although the TB bacteria can infect any organ (e.g., kidney, lymph nodes, bones, joints) in the body, the disease commonly occurs in the lungs.[3] Around 80% of all TB cases are related to pulmonary or lung.

Common symptoms include:


There is a specific bacterium that evolves inside the body to result in tuberculosis, known as mycobacterium tuberculosis. This bacterium is only spread throughout the body when a person has an active TB infection. One of many causes of acquiring TB is living a life with a weak immune system; everything becomes fragile, and an easy target. That is why babies, children and senior adults have a higher risk of adapting TB.[3] The bacterium spreads in the air sacs, and passes off into the lungs, resulting in an infected immune system.

In addition, coughing, sneezing, and even talking to someone can release the mycobacterium into the air, consequently affecting the people breathing this air. It has been stated that your chances of becoming infected are higher if you come from – or travel to – certain countries where TB is common, and where there is a big proportion of homeless people.[3] India, being the largest country with diagnosed patients, falls under this cause because it stands recognized as consuming a higher chance of gaining TB.

Those listed are all the bodily and personal causes of acquiring TB, but tuberculosis in India is rich in its high rates because of the pollution dispersed throughout the country. Pollution causes many effects in the air the people breathe there, and since TB can be gained through air, the chances of TB remain high and in a consistent movement going uphill for India.

Another major cause for the growth of TB in India has to do with it currently still standing as a developing country. Because its economy is still developing, the citizens are still fighting for their rights, and the structure of the country lies in poor evidence that it is not fit as other countries still. TB rises high in India because of the majority of people not being able to afford the treatment drugs prescribed to diagnosed patients. “At present, only the 1.5 million patients already under the Indian government's care get free treatments for regular TB. That leaves patients who seek treatment in India's growing private sector to buy drugs for themselves, and most struggle to do that, government officials say.”[4] Consequently, high priced treatment drugs and the struggles of “poor patients” also brawl through the poor treatment they receive in response to acquiring TB. “It is estimated that just 16% of patients with drug-resistant TB are receiving appropriate treatment”.[9] To combat this huge problem, India has instated a new program to try to provide free drugs to all those infected in the country.[4] Lastly, as high pricing is linked to the economic standings of India, which is linked to poor treatment, it all underlines the lack of education and background information practitioners and professionals hold for prescribing drugs, or those private therapy sessions. A study conducted in Mumbai by Udwadia, Amale, Ajbani, and Rodrigues, showed that only 5 of 106 private practitioners practicing in a crowded area called Dharavi could prescribe a correct prescription for a hypothetical patient with MDR tuberculosis.[10]


Testing for pulmonary TB[edit]

Any person who has signs and symptoms suggestive of TB including a cough for more than 2 weeks, significant weight loss, haemoptysis (coughing blood) etc. and any abnormality in a chest radiograph should be evaluated to find out if they have TB.

Children with a persistent fever and/or cough for more than 2 weeks, children who have a loss of weight or no weight gain, and/or children who are household contacts of people who have already been diagnosed as having pulmonary TB must be evaluated for TB.

Screening for TB[edit]

People living with HIV (PLHIV), people who are malnourished, who have diabetes or cancer, and people on steroid therapy should be regularly screened for signs and symptoms suggestive of TB. Enhanced case finding should be undertaken in certain “high risk” populations such as healthcare workers, prisoners, slum dwellers. There should also be enhanced case finding in certain occupational groups such as mineworkers, as in some countries such as South Africa, there is known to be a high level of TB among miners.Enhanced case finding means having a high level of suspicion for TB in all encounters. Then excluding TB (or indeed identifying TB) using a combination of clinical queries, radiographic and microbiologic testing.

There are a number of diagnostic TB tests currently available.

Microbiological confirmation on sputum[edit]

All patients who have presumptive (that is are presumed to have) TB and who are capable of producing sputum, should undergo a sputum test for rapid microbiological diagnosis of TB. These are two type of test 1) by LJ (solid) Method 2) MGIT (liquid) Method

Chest X-ray as a screening tool[edit]

Where available chest X-ray should be used as a screening tool.

Cartridge Based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (CB NAAT)[edit]

The CB NAAT is known as the GeneXpert in most countries other than India. This is the preferred first diagnostic test in children and people with TB and HIV co-infection.

Sputum Samples[edit]

Sputum tests are very important in diagnosing TB, so paying attention to the detail of collecting a good sputum sample is very important. A number of studies have looked at this, and the general view is that two samples are almost as good as three samples.

Binocular microscopes are used for testing TB samples and the diagnosis of TB in India

Methods of testing using sputum samples include sputum smear microscopy (both conventional and fluorescent), culture (on solid or liquid media) commercial line probe asssay (LPA) or CB-NAAT. With the advent of CB_NAAT the sensitivity and specificity of rapid diagnosis from sputum, has increased to approximately the levels seen in solid-media sputum culture, but of course the time scales, at just a few hours, are very much shorter with CB-NAAT.

RNTCP Laboratory Network[edit]

The RNTCP (Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) has established a network of laboratories where TB tests can be done to diagnose people who have TB. There are also tests that can be done to determine whether a person has drug resistant TB.

The laboratory system comprises National Reference Laboratories (NRLs), state level Intermediate Reference Laboratories (IRLs), Culture & Drug Susceptibility Testing (C & DST) laboratories and Designated Microscopy Centres (DMCs). Some of Private lab also Accredited for Culture & Drug Susceptibility Testing for M.tuberculosis (I.e Microcare Laboratory & tuberculosis Research Centre, Surat)


India has a large burden of the world's TB, one that this developing country can ill afford, with an estimated economic loss of US $43 billion and 100 million lost annually directly due to this disease.[11] Treatment in India is on the rise just as the disease itself is on the rise. To prevent spreading TB, it's important to get treatment quickly and to follow it through to completion by your doctor. This can stop transmission of the bacteria and the appearance of antibiotic-resistant strains. It is a knowingly fact that bacterial infections require antibiotics for treatment and prevention, thus, commonly you will see that patients diagnosed with tuberculosis have certain pills and antibiotics carried around with them. The antibiotics most commonly used include isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol. It is crucial to take your medication as instructed by your doctor, and for the full course of the treatment (months or years). This helps to ward off types of TB bacteria that are antibiotic-resistant, which take longer and are more difficult to treat.[3] In India’s case, the particular type of TB infections are majority resistant to regular antibiotic treatment (MDR-TB, XDR-TB, TDR-TB), therefore, not one or two medications will help, rather a combination of different medications must be taken for over a course of 18–24 months, depending on how deep the infection is. Since the 1960s, two drugs — isoniazid and rifampicin — have been the standard TB treatment.[9] In addition to antibiotics, a vaccine is available to limit the spread of bacteria after TB infection. The vaccine is generally used in countries or communities where the risk of TB infection is greater than 1% each year,[3] thus, the country of India; whose TB infection rate is at a peak (world’s third highest TB infected country), and is consistently growing, and giving 20% of the world’s diagnosed patients a home.[9] At present the anti TB treatment offered in public and private sector in India is not satisfactory and needs to be improved.[12] Today India's TB control program needs to update itself with the international TB guidelines as well as provide an optimal anti TB treatment to the patients enrolled under it or it will land up being another factor in the genesis of drug resistant tuberculosis.[13]

The Indian government’s Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) started in India during 1997. The program uses the WHO recommended Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) strategy to develop ideas and data on TB treatment. This group’s initial objective is to achieve and maintain a TB treatment success rate of at least 85% in India among new patients.[14] “In 2010 the RNTCP made a major policy decision that it would change focus and adopt the concept of Universal Access to quality diagnosis and TB treatment for all TB patients”.[8] By doing so, they extend out a helping hand to all people diagnosed with TB, and in addition, provide better quality services and improve on therapy for these patients.

Treatment recommendations from Udwadia, et al. suggest that patients with TDR-TB only be treated “within the confines of government sanctioned DOTS-Plus Programs to prevent the emergence of this untreatable form of tuberculosis”.[9] As this confirming result of hypothesis is at a conclusion by Udawadai, et al., it is given that the new Indian government program will insist on providing drugs free of charge to TB patients of India, for the first time ever.[4]

Tuberculosis Association of India[edit]

The Tuberculosis Association of India is a voluntary organization. It was set up in February, 1939. It is also affiliated to the Govt. of India & is working with TB Delhi center.[15]

See also[edit]




  1. ^ World Health Organization (2009). "Epidemiology" (PDF). Global tuberculosis control: epidemiology, strategy, financing. pp. 6–33. ISBN 978-92-4-156380-2. Retrieved 12 November 2009.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ TB Statistics for India. (2012). TB Facts. Retrieved April 3, 2013, from
  3. ^ a b c d e f Tuberculosis - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis. (2013). C-Health. Retrieved April 3, 2103, from
  4. ^ a b c d e Anand, G., & McKay, B. (2012). Awakening to Crisis, India Plans New Push Against TB. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 3, 2013, from
  5. ^ "The Stop TB Strategy, case reports, treatment outcomes and estimates of TB burden". Global tuberculosis control: epidemiology, strategy, financing. World Health Organization. 2009. pp. 187–300. ISBN 978-92-4-156380-2. Archived from the original on 2009-11-19. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
  6. ^ WHO. Global tuberculosis control. WHO report. WHO/HTM/TB/2006.362. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2006.
  7. ^ Udwadia, Zarir; Vendoti, Deepesh (2013). "Totally drug-resistant tuberculosis (TDR-TB) in India: Every dark cloud has a silver lining". Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 67 (6): 471–472. doi:10.1136/jech-2012-201640. PMID 23155059.
  8. ^ a b[full citation needed][unreliable medical source?][dead link]
  9. ^ a b c d Rowland, Katherine (2012). "Totally drug-resistant TB emerges in India". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2012.9797.
  10. ^ Udwadia, Z. F; Amale, R. A; Ajbani, K. K; Rodrigues, C (2011). "Totally Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in India". Clinical Infectious Diseases. 54 (4): 579–581. doi:10.1093/cid/cir889. PMID 22190562.
  11. ^ Udwadia, Zarir F (2012). "MDR, XDR, TDR tuberculosis: Ominous progression". Thorax. 67 (4): 286–288. doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2012-201663. PMID 22427352.
  12. ^ Mishra G, Mulani J. Tuberculosis Prescription Practices In Private And Public Sector In India. NJIRM. 2013; 4(2): 71-78.Available online at Accessed on 6/5/2013.
  13. ^ Mishra, Gyanshankar; Ghorpade, S. V; Mulani, J (2014). "XDR-TB: An outcome of programmatic management of TB in India". Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. 11 (1): 47–52. doi:10.20529/IJME.2014.013. PMID 24509111.
  14. ^[full citation needed][dead link][unreliable source?]
  15. ^

Further reading[edit]

General and applied

External links[edit]