Out of every four city children diagnosed with TB in the past five years, three were girls, data from the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) showed.
The trend, however, reverses later, with two out of every three adults diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) being men.
The RNTCP data, which was accessed by Hindustan Times through a Right To Information application, stated that between 2008 and March 2013, there were 997 girls among the 1,344 children in Mumbai diagnosed with pulmonary TB.
The central government’s RNTCP records every new TB patient and those receiving treatment under the DOTS (Directly Observed Therapy).
Doctors said girls’ low body mass index and low nutrition intake should be blamed, as immunity plays a major role in preventing TB.
“Anaemia and stress among adolescent girls could also be contributing factors for lower immunity and higher TB incidence,” said Dr Deepesh Reddy, a former consultant with RNTCP. Public health experts said the poor nutrition could be a result of discrimination against the girl child.
Other doctors said the findings also called for a study on whether girls are genetically pre-disposed to contracting TB. While there is no major scientific evidence indicating this, doctors said the incidence is “too big to ignore” at a time when the city is struggling with an increasing number of drug-resistant TB patients.
“Over the past three years, we have treated ten girls, and just one boy, with large cavities in their lungs owing to TB. This kind of damage to lungs is commonly seen in adults. It is evident that girls are for some reason more susceptible to TB,” said Dr Bela Verma, associate professor, GT Hospital, Dhobi Talao.
“Environmental and genetic factors need to be studied to understand why TB affects more girls,”said Dr Om Shrivastav, director, department of infectious diseases, Jaslok hospital.