An email repository has been planned for establishing connectivity between the government and all doctors in the country with the objective of pooling resources to lower the disease burden. Government doctors as well as those in private practice would be covered by it. Announcing this here today at the inauguration of the First National TB Drug Resistance Survey, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, said, “Building up an email repository would especially help in the national fight against TB, a notifiable disease. It would facilitate instant transmission of news to all health authorities, public health and healthcare providers, public health laboratories and healthcare professionals. Dr Harsh Vardhan pointed out, “The repository could be utilised to spread information on new medical knowledge to all doctors or the fruits of research by ICMR and other organisations. TB patients could benefit if the doctors treating them are told of effective treatment methods and protocol which they may not be aware of.”
The Minister said the survey, which would be held in collaboration with WHO and USAID, will have the largest ever sample size –5,214—covering 120 TB units in 24 states. The patients to be surveyed are both first time and retreatment cases. Their resistance levels against 13 anti-TB drugs would be observed – five of them first-line and eight second-line. He stressed the international significance of the survey findings and analysis based on them would help form a better understanding of TB not only in India but all over the world. The earlier surveys were carried out in Bangladesh, Brazil and China but had smaller sample sizes and covered just four drugs.
The Minister said India accounts for 99,000 of the global burden of 390,000 multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB cases annually – 25 percent of the total burden. The mortality associated with this form of TB is higher than drug-susceptible TB. Now, an even bigger challenge has emerged called “Extensively drug-resistant TB” (XDR-TB). Dr Harsh Vardhan said that the use of Information and Communication Technology will help in real time monitoring the survey. “It has the potential to allow policymakers devise new strategies to combat MDR TB and identify the accurate channels for funds deployment.” Recalling the first TB survey conducted in India—by Dr Arthur Lankester, the Honorary Secretary of the Medical Missionary Society of India in 1914-16 – the Minister said, “People would lose faith in these surveys if nothing short of time-bound, target-set programmes are launched. We did it for polio, so let us use the same energy to fight TB.” Dr Harsh Vardhan, who also re-launched the Ministry’s media campaign on TB, said, “Let us focus on advocacy and social mobilisation. It is another tragedy that the vast masses of people are more conscious about cancer and AIDS than TB. They should be reminded that the high incidence of TB even after a century of government programmes is a matter of national shame.”
Speaking at the occasion, Dr Nata Menabde, WHO country representative in India, stated that the survey would help stakeholders understand the epidemiology of the disease. “A lot more will be learnt about the various anti-drug resistant TB strains from this survey which would help us devise strategies.” Also present on the occasion were Dr Matteo Zignol of WHO’s TB Programme, Dr Nancy Godfrey, Chief of Office, USAID, Mr Lov Verma, Health Secretary, Mr C. K. Mishra, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Jagdish Prasad, DG Health Services, Mr Anshu Prakash, Joint Secretary, Dr R.S. Gupta, DDG, Central TB pision, Dr K.S. Sachdeva, Additional DDG, Central TB, pision, and other senior officers from the Ministry and partner agencies.