Efforts by India to curb TB as WHO releases Global TB Report 2022

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released the Global TB Report 2022 on 27th October 2022. The Report notes the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the diagnosis, treatment and burden of disease for Tuberculosis (TB) all over the world.

TB is caused by a bacteria (mycobacterium tuberculosis) that mostly affect the lungs. It can spread when people with TB expel bacteria into the air, for example, by coughing. According to the Report, most people who develop the disease are adults. In 2021, men accounted for 56.5% of the TB burden, adult women (32.5%) and children (11%).

TB is preventable and curable and around 85% of people who develop the disease can be successfully treated with a 4 to 6 months drug treatment.

Work in progress in India:

According to the Report, India was among the eight countries accounting for more than two-third of the total TB patient count. The other seven countries were China, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria & the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

However, prior to the publication of the Global Report, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had communicated to WHO that the Ministry has already initiated domestic studies to arrive at a more accurate estimate. India’s data will be provided after the conclusion of studies by 2023. India is also conducting its own National Prevalence Survey to assess the true TB burden. The WHO Report also noted that India is the only country to have such a survey.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has stated that India’s TB incidence for the year 2021 is 210 per 100,000 population, compared to the baseline year of 2015 (incidence was 256 per lakh of population in India). In 2021, over 22 crore people were screened for TB in India. The Ministry says that the aim has been to find and detect more cases to arrest onward transmission of the disease in the community which has contributed to the decline in incidence.

Campaigns by India to end the infectious disease:

The reported number of people newly diagnosed with TB fell from 7.1 million in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020. Experts have noted that TB services, among many other services, were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021. Many people with TB were not diagnosed and treated.

But in India, even during the pandemic, various measures were taken which led to the National TB Elimination Programme notifying over 21.4 lakh TB cases. The Ministry attributed the success in the detection of disease to the mandatory notification policy to ensure all cases are reported to the government. Further, intensified door-to-door active case finding drives were conducted to screen patients and ensure no household is missed.

In India, several initiatives have been launched to ensure TB elimination. It was in 2018 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the call to end TB, 5 years ahead of the SDG target of 2030. Recently on 9th September, President Droupadi Murmu launched “PM TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyan”. The launch is to reinforce the mission and make it a ‘Jan Andolan’ to bring more people together for the ambitious target. The President also launched the Ni-kshay 2.0 Portal, to motivate more donors to support TB fighters.

Through the Ni-kshay Mitra initiative, community support is being provided to TB patients by promoting citizens to adopt one or more patients. It is a step toward building a patient-centric health system in the country.

Need for multi-sectoral global action:

In 2014 and 2015, all WHO member states and the United Nation adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and WHO’s End TB Strategy which has put 2030 as the deadline to end TB globally.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General called for unified action to fight TB. Ghebreyesus stated, “It is time to put a stop to this long-time killer. Working together, we can end TB.” The Report too calls for increased investments and multi-sectoral action to address the issue. It further states the need for new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.

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