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No methyl spirit for TB tests in dry Bihar

Non-availability of methyl alcohol in ‘dry’ Bihar is adversely impacting the efficacy of tuberculosis tests

india Updated: Feb 15, 2017 17:16 IST
Arun Kumar
Arun Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
TB,Methyl alcohol,Prohibition
Pathological labs, including those in primary health centres and government hospitals of Bihar, have run short of methyl alcohol, which is used to carry out tests to detect tuberculosis.(Representative image)

In dry Bihar, carrying out pathological tests to detect tuberculosis, in the traditional and widely-accepted way,.is proving to be difficult.

Reason: Labs, including those in the primary health centres (PHCs) and government hospitals, have run short of methyl alcohol, which is used to carry out such tests..

Though other reagents available in the market are being used by private labs as an alternative since total prohibition was enforced in the state on April 5, 2016, government labs somehow continued using old stocks before running completely dry.

“Now, we also resort to using market reagents, though they are not as reliable as fresh ones made with methyl alcohol. For, the old ones can give misleading results. Earlier, we used only fresh reagents as they makes bacteria easily visible in the sputum test. But now, unavailability of methyl alcohol has forced us to work with alternatives available in the market,” said an official of the Bihar TB Association.

According to sources, Bihar medical infrastructure development corporation limited (BMIDCL) has drawn the attention of the department of excise towards the problem.

“We wrote to the department four days ago and hope for an early solution. This was after w e received a petition from the TB association,” said an official of BMIDCL.

Excise commissioner Aditya Kumar Das told HT that the matter would be looked into. “If there is really a shortage of methyl alcohol and it cannot be met through other sources, we will do the needful to ensure supply,” he added.

Bihar recorded 64,158 cases of TB in the government hospitals in 2016, though this figure is considered to be just 33% of the total cases. “Despite providing free tests and in a more reliable manner, nearly 66% of the cases go to private labs. The culture test that we do free of cost is priced Rs 3,500 in private labs,” said KB Sahay of State TB Association.

Bihar has 738 testing labs for TB, besides 38 special labs and four culture labs.

Manish Kumar, who runs an NGO ‘Innovators’, in the health sector, at Dalsinghsarai, said Bihar’s requirement, as recorded earlier, was around 1,200 litres of methyl alcohol every year. “It is a basic requirement for testing and sooner the government takes a decision , the better it will be,” he added.

With the Centre now emphasizing the necessity for elimination of TB, along with four other chronic diseases, by 2025, and the state showing increase in the number of patients, the challenge before Bihar is big. “Some alcohol can be allowed to flow in liquor-free Bihar for the right reason”, said a TB association functionary..

First Published: Feb 15, 2017 17:16 IST

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