India has set up a digital database of 1.4 million people being treated free for tuberculosis under the Rs. 710-crore Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) to ensure better treatment and compliance.
“Nikshay enables near-real time reporting of new TB cases and ensures optimal tracking and case management, especially in inaccessible areas and places where patients have high mobility,” said Anshu Prakash, joint secretary, Union ministry of health and family welfare. “This will ensure better compliance with the six-month drug regimen, which reduces transmission and prevents the emergence and spread of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB).”
TB is caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis and spreads through air by cough droplets. One patient can infect 10 or more people in a year. In India, TB kills two persons every three minutes — more than AIDS, sexually-transmitted diseases, malaria, leprosy and tropical diseases combined.
India has 66,000 cases of MDR TB and 22 of extreme drug-resistant (XDR) TB. To ensure early diagnosis and treatment, the government will provide 200 districts with DNA-based MDR and XDR testing equipment in 2013-14.
“Currently, sputum samples of suspected MDR cases are transferred to a few dozen DNA testing centres, so results take four to five days. District-level testing will ensure results within 48 hours,” says Prakash. By the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17), all districts will have DNA-based testing facilities.
Diagnosis and treatment are already provided free to all under RNTCP, which ensures patients take the drug under supervision on alternate days.
TB was made a notifiable disease in May 2012, which makes it mandatory for all private hospitals and clinics to report cases to the government and follow treatment protocols. “The private sector is being actively involved to ensure patient compliance and stop the prescription of irrational drug doses and wrong combinations that cause drug resistance,” Prakash said.