From two deaths every three minutes to having the highest tuberculosis burden in the world, most surveys related to TB in India throw a startling number.
And here is one more: Close to 9% of all paediatric tuberculosis patients are resistant to rifampicin, one of the firstline drugs used in the treatment of the infectious disease. This is 6% more than what was previously estimated, a study covering four Indian metros has found. The project, initiated last year by the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP), found that 8% of the 22,000 suspected paedia tric TB cases (0-14 years) tested positive, of which nearly 9% were resistant to rifampicin. The study covered Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Delhi.
“The result of the survey came as a surprise,” said Dr Amar Shah, National consultant for HIVTB for RNTCP. Estimates so far have showed that the prevalence of multi-drug resistance (MDR) in new TB cases, of which children comprise a large portion, is between 2% to 3%.
“Our survey showed a staggering 9%, which is quite high. It’s surprising because many of them haven’t been exposed to antibiotics before, which means they are acquiring the infection in the MDR form at the time of transmission,” he said.
Among the four metros, TB incidence was highest among children in the national capital at 12.2% and the east in Chennai at 5.4%. Riampicin resistance was seen most in Kolkata at 12%. Chennai had the least number of cases at 2.9%.
Diagnosis of TB in children is complicated as the bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis,can mimic many other common childhood diseases, including pneumonia, general bacterial and viral infections and respiratory infections.
“Children also find it hard o cough up the sputum for he samples. They tend to swallow instead,” said Dr K Sachdeva, additional deputy director general of Central TB division. “So accuracy in he traditional tests is often ambiguous,” he said.