India has only 37 laboratories to test the growing number of deadly multiple-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) patients, according to World Health Organisation Global Tuberculosis Report 2012 released this week. This means there is one specialised laboratory for every five crore Indians as against one for 50 lakh people as per WHO standards.
Only a patient tested in an accredited laboratory for MDR-TB can avail of the free directly observed treatment, shortcourse (DOTS) and a two-year treatment that costs between Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. "From 2010, we have scaled up infrastructure for testing facilities, but states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that are low on infrastructure are doing poorly," said Dr KS Sachdeva, chief medical officer, Central TB division. Three of the seven laboratories to test MDR-TB in Maharashtra are in Mumbai.
"We want patients to avail of free DOTS because there is a specific treatment protocol not followed by private practitioners," said Dr BD Nanavare, state TB officer, Directorate of Health Services (DHS).
In Mumbai, Hinduja Hospital at Mahim and Super Religare laboratories are accredited for drug susceptibility testing and JJ hospital laboratory conducts the line probe assay test. The laboratory at Sewri TB Hospital has applied for accreditation. "We need mechanisms to ensure that a patient can access the available facilities," said Blessi Kumar, vice-chairman of Stop TB Partnership.