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Covid-19 patients with suspected TB are at a higher risk, say doctors

By Rupsa Chakraborty, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JUN 04, 2020 12:24 AM IST

The city’s biggest municipal tuberculosis (TB) facility, Group of Tuberculosis Hospitals, Sewree, has reported 23 Covid-19 cases among suspected TB patients in the last month, with four deaths. For doctors at the hospital, the growing number of such cases has become a cause for worry.

Due to their compromised lung condition, TB patients are most vulnerable to Covid-19. But considering the similarities between the two diseases, it is extremely challenging to differentiate between the two.

Despite being at higher risk of infection, as HT reported on April 20, treatment of TB patients has taken a back seat due to the pandemic.

In the last one month, the Sewri TB hospital has received 23 Covid positive patients with suspected TB. Of these, four, all of whom had previously recovered from TB, succumbed to the infection. An 18-year-old Covid-19 positive woman was the youngest to die at the hospital last week.

“As Covid-19 mainly affects the lungs and airways, patients with pulmonary TB are most susceptible to the infection. Their X-rays also show similar clouding and it is extremely difficult to identify the differences,” said Dr Lalit Anande, medical superintendent of the hospital.

All four Covid victims had a medical history of TB. “Though all four had recovered, their lungs were still weak and their immunity was low. Thus, they contracted the infection easily. The condition of these patients deteriorates fast, especially if they develop pneumonia. We get just a few hours for their treatment before they collapse,” said Dr Anande.

The hospital has created a Covid isolation ward for suspected TB patients. Since the outbreak, the ward has treated 67 patients and 10 of them have been discharged.

One 52-year-old TB patient who was on the BEAT (Building Evidence for Advance Treatment against Tuberculosis) clinical trial has also recovered from Covid-19.

According to doctors at the TB hospital, vitamin C immunisers have provided new hope for patients. Most of these dosages were donated by Bollywood actor Salman Khan a few months ago, prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“It acts as an antioxidant and builds immunity among patients. It has helped patients with pneumonia. It is not scientifically proven but we have seen huge improvement among patients,” said Anande. “We need to do more research on vitamin C and include it in the treatment of Covid patients,” she added.

Aside from the 23 cases among suspected TB patients, 44 medical staffers have also contracted Covid-19 through cross-transmission. One of the staffers, a class IV employee, succumbed to the infection.

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