Chennai: Despite the government putting in a lot of effort in supplying medicines for tuberculosis (TB), the disease burden continues to remain extremely high in the country.
A recent study had found that a large percentage of pulmonary TB patients in India suffer from malnutrition, a problem that most experts have overlooked.
Amidst mounting international pressure to bring down the tuberculosis (TB) burden in the country, experts feel that looking into the nutrition aspect is now the need of the hour.
“Under-nutrition increases the severity of TB, it reduces patients' speed of recovery and also increases their chances of suffering side-effects of the medicine. The likelihood of their becoming one among the 4,80,000 Indian lives that TB claims every year is also possible,” said pulmonologist Dr S. Patrick.
On World TB Day this year, government has released a guideline 'Nutritional Care and Support for TB Patients in India', which is the first country-level adaptation of the 2013 World Health Organization guideline for the nutritional care and support of TB patients. “Low weight is a classic symptom of TB, a disease associated with wasting away of fat and muscle,” said Dr Patrick.
Stating that malnutrition is one of the main epistemological factors in the causation of TB, Dr Murugan from the Institute of Thoracic Medicine, said, “A malnutrition patient tends to have a very poor immune status. Almost 40 per cent of Indian population has what is known as latent TB infection and those with poor immunity levels tend to develop the disease sooner than a well-nourished person.”
“Under-nutrition is the stark reality of 90 per cent of pulmonary TB cases in India, or more than one million patients. The two tend to have a two-way causal association and malnutrition has only been serving to complicate India's TB problem. Some states like Tamil Nadu have introduced schemes to provide school going children with food and therefore tend to see fewer numbers of children with malnutrition. Only if the government takes up various initiatives like this, along with support from the public sector, will the country be able to bring down the burden,” said pulmonologist Dr Santosh Mathew.
Flavoured drug for TB
In what may be seen as good news for children suffering from tuberculosis (TB), the government has introduced the world's first easily dissolvable and flavoured drug, which will serve as a relief from the usually bitter drug.
The pilot programme, which has been rolled out in five states, will be introduced in 18 states by the end of July. “The child-friendly tablets, which will come in candy flavours like orange and strawberry, are expected to be a game-changer in improving treatment. With the country being the first to introduce the same, the government is of the hope that it will serve towards bringing down number of lives lost,” said pulmanologist Dr Santosh Mathew.
In a published report, Dr Jagdish Prasad, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said, “This is for the first time that Union health ministry has come up with flavored and tasty medicine for tuberculosis for kids. India is the first country in the world to start with candy-flavored medicine for TB at a national level.”
Stating that taking treatment for TB is not a very good experience, Dr Murugan from the Institute of Thoracic Medicine, said, “Earlier, consumption of the medicines used to be much more difficult. Though it has changed, the recent most initiative of introducing falvoured tablets will definitely serve to help parents in the process of giving their children the tablets.”