Deadly XDR tuberculosis spreads tentacles in state

Detection of 12 patients with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) has increased the worries of health officials in the state. It may pose a challenge to the target for the complete eradication of the disease by 2025.
Officials associated with the control programme at the Directorate of Health Services said the number could be on the higher side as they had been able to identify a new strain in patients who visited hospitals for routine respiratory ailments.

XDR is rare and much deadlier than multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis bacteria. Both are known to resist isoniazid and rifampicin, the two most powerful first-line anti-TB drugs. However, treatment options are expensive but with changes in dosage, period and combination of other drugs, MDR-TB can be cured but XDR-TB does not respond to medicines.

At the moment, there are around 4,000 tuberculosis patients in the state. Around 100 patients are suffering with MDR-TB.

“The main reason why tuberculosis bacteria resists drugs and turns from common infection to MDR and XDR is because patients don’t take medicines properly and leave the course midway. With time, the bacteria grows resistance to normal drugs, increasing the mortality rate,” said Dr Rahul Gupta, head of department, chest disease and TB control, at Government Medical College and Hospital, Jammu.

Dr Gupta said XDR was a major challenge for doctors in the country and only increased awareness and cooperation from patients could control its spread. “For legal reasons, we cannot identify patients. I have received patients from all strata of society because the disease is spread by contact with the affected person,” he said.

At the moment, the Centrally sponsored directly observed treatment short (DOTS) and DOTS-Plus projects are going on in the state.

State TB control officer Kartar Chand said they had launched an active case finding campaign in every district of the state with a mobile testing lab to reach out to people.

“Our focus is on rural and far-flung hamlets. We are regularly conducting awareness campaigns. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that usually affects lungs and if not treated, each active person can infect 10 to 15 people a year on an average,” he said.