MUMBAI: At a time when India is battling a crisis of antibiotic resistance and a few drugs in the pipeline, the government’s plan to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025 seems an unachievable target, say doctors. The mention of TB in Wednesday’s Budget has come as a welcome move, but experts say the government will have to look at various initiatives rather than simply focusing on antibiotics.
Chest physician Dr. Zarir Udwadia of Hinduja Hospital, who has been at the forefront of the anti-TB war, said Union Minister Arun Jaitley’s promise was nothing but a hollow slogan.
“It was like a typical politicians’ promise. The hundreds of TB patients languishing in this country are a mute testament to this.,” he added.
An estimated 2.8 million people suffer from TB, which is 217 per one lakh population. A significant number of them are drug resistant mainly due to late diagnosis or a haphazard medication course. “The problem is we are focusing on antibiotics which are very limited now. We need to focus on the preventive habits such as coughing, sneezing etiquettes which should be engraved from childhood. A TB patient releases 3,000 to 5,000 TB bacilli in one cough. If we ignore these basics, the TB war is going to be a huge failure,” said Dr Lalitkumar Anande, chief medical officer of Sewri TB Hospital. “It is, however, a good step that the government has mentioned the disease in this year’s Budget.”
Dr. Salil Bendre, head of pulmonary medicine at Nanavati Hospital, said it is not right to be pessimistic. “We all should hope and work towards the TB eradication. So the government has taken a right step. The problem is it is an air-borne disease and that it has a latent form for which we don’t have treatment. The focus should be on improving immunity so that the dormant bacteria doesn’t become active.”