As the world continues to battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, another infectious disease, tuberculosis (TB), remains a significant public health threat in many countries, including India. Despite the Indian government’s efforts to eliminate TB by 2025, the pandemic has presented new challenges to achieving this goal.
Economic Survey Report
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that target the lungs. The disease is primarily transmitted through the air. It predominantly affects adults, particularly those who are malnourished or have a weakened immune system, especially in developing countries.
In 2019, tuberculosis was ranked as the 13th leading cause of death worldwide. However, due to significant setbacks in TB diagnosis and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now estimated to be the second leading cause of death globally, second only to COVID-19.
According to the economic survey, the state of Maharashtra has witnessed a steady increase in cases of tuberculosis (TB) and leprosy since the COVID-19 pandemic lost its impact.
The survey’s public health data revealed that in the year 2021-22, there were 750 suspected TB patients per lakh population, with a cure rate of 84%.
However, in the year 2022-23 (up to December 2022), the number of suspected TB patients per lakh population rose to 1,552, with a similar cure rate of 85%. The survey also noted that the state government spent Rs 88.2 crore on TB eradication in 2021-22, and Rs 75.8 crore in 2022-23.
India’s Fight Against TB
In 2021, tuberculosis proved to be a lethal disease in India, with a death toll of over half a million people – an increase of more than 5% compared to 2020. This makes India the country with the highest share of the global TB burden, with its TB-related deaths accounting for just under one-third of the total global deaths, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.
Despite COVID-19 dominating headlines, TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the situation.
However, there is some good news for India, as the incidence of TB in 2021 was 210 per 100,000 population – an 18% reduction compared to the baseline year of 2015 when the incidence was 256 per lakh of population in India. This improvement is seven percentage points better than the global average of 11%.
How COVID-19 is Complicating TB Diagnosis and Treatment
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on global efforts to combat tuberculosis (TB). One of the major challenges faced by healthcare systems is the diversion of resources and attention toward COVID-19 response efforts, leaving less capacity for TB diagnosis and treatment.
Many TB clinics and healthcare facilities have been repurposed to respond to the pandemic, causing disruptions in TB services and making it difficult for patients to access care. In addition, measures such as lockdowns and travel restrictions have affected the availability of TB medications and diagnostics, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment.
Furthermore, the fear of contracting COVID-19 has deterred some patients from seeking care, leading to missed diagnoses and worsening of TB symptoms.
The pandemic has also worsened existing health inequalities, with vulnerable populations, such as those living in poverty or with underlying health conditions, being disproportionately affected by TB and COVID-19.
India’s Battle to End TB by 2025
In 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a bold target to end tuberculosis (TB) in the country by 2025, five years ahead of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target. Achieving this goal would require significant efforts from the government, healthcare providers, and diagnostic centers.
In this regard, Redcliffe Labs, a leading diagnostics center in India, has taken a significant step forward by launching the BD MAX MDR TB test for Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in a single test.
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This is the first-of-its-kind test in India that can detect drug resistance against both Rifampicin and Isoniazid in a single test.
This innovation has the potential to revolutionize the fight against TB in India by providing faster and more precise diagnoses, enabling early and targeted treatment, and ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes.
Redcliffe Labs’ contribution in this battle will undoubtedly bring us closer to achieving the ambitious goal of ending TB in India by 2025.