467K patients with Covid-19, respiratory infections screened for TB in Maharashtra
As tuberculosis (TB) and Covid-19 share similar symptoms, the state health department between October 2020 and April 2021 screened as many as 467,032 patients with novel coronavirus, influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) for TB. Of these, 5,264 patients were diagnosed with TB, and 96% of them were put on treatment.
During the same period, 58,554 TB patients were tested for Covid-19, of which 571 (1%) of were diagnosed with Covid-19.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), TB and Covid-19 are both infectious diseases that primarily attack the lungs and have similar symptoms such as cough, fever and difficulty in breathing.
Last October, the central health department issued guidelines on ‘Bi-directional TB-Covid-19 screening and screening of TB among ILI and SARI cases’. Following this, all hospitals were instructed to test symptomatic patients with ILI, SARI and Covid-19 for TB.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of TB cases has gone down. In order to overrule any possibility of misdiagnosis or underreporting of TB cases, the Central government gave the instruction. If any patient goes unreported, they can spread the bacteria to many others,” said Dr Shilpa Jichkar, TB officer, Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC).
According to the guidelines issued by the Centre, Covid-19 patients are instructed to be tested for TB if they have some specific symptoms — cough and persistent fever for more than two weeks, significant weight loss and night sweats.
Other than running sputum tests, hospitals can conduct X-rays and cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification test (CBNAAT).
“Most of these co-infection cases have been identified in new TB patients. They approached hospitals considering they have Covid-19. But when their CT scan report showed different forms of clouding in lungs, their sputum culture confirmed that they were also carrying the bacteria of TB,” said Dr Lalit Anande, a TB specialist.
Both these infections affect people with lower immunity,” he added.