TB in IndiaGlobally, India contributes the largest number of tuberculosis (TB) cases yearly, totaling more than half a million deaths in 2021. In response, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared war on the disease, aiming to end TB in India by 2025, five years ahead of the global goal of 2030 set by the World Health Organization (WHO)

However, this is no easy feat to accomplish for India. Poor sanitation and crowded areas greatly increase the risk of transmission — a harsh reality for India with 1.4 billion people and 1/10 living below the poverty line. Furthermore, a lack of stable infrastructure, awareness and accessibility add barriers to reducing TB. To combat these poor environmental factors the Indian government has developed a myriad of programs to improve TB outcomes. 

Panchayat Initiative

The goal of the Panchayat (a village council) Initiative is to tackle TB on a small-scale village level. By working with local governments the initiative has elevated TB awareness, care and prevention in more than 500,000 villages. This was accomplished by creating TB units that covered five villages each and had members inform residents about TB identification, early diagnosis and treatment. 

Ni-Akshay Mitra Campaign 

The Ni-Akshay Mitra campaign focuses on reducing the stigma surrounding TB in India. By creating a public government program easily accessible via the internet citizens are able to access vital information. The program offers an array of support ranging from dietary, diagnostic and occupational information. The campaign has already reached over 1 million TB patients and has had success in building a culture aiding the elimination of TB in India. It also highlights nutritional information that recent studies have shown can be instrumental in preventing and reducing TB. 

Government Aid 

A primary barrier to TB treatment in India is a lack of monetary resources. TB treatment can total about $700 in direct and indirect costs, but the average monthly salary in India is $387. To curb this, India’s Direct Benefit Transfer a government program provides money to TB patients. The program has helped about 8 million patients and distributed $260 million. 

The government has also focused on helping citizens with care. Recently developing a family-focused model of care through the Ministry of Health to aid family caregivers in treating TB. Information made easily accessible by the government teaches caregivers through media, videos and animations. 

Looking Forward 

While there are still barriers and challenges regarding TB that need addressing, such as increasing drug resistance and hindered infrastructure due to the COVID-19 epidemic, India is no doubt ahead of the WHO’s schedule in eliminating TB. Reducing TB is another weight that is lifted off those suffering from poverty and is a great step in working to improve the lives of billions living in India.

– Aditya Arora
Photo: Flickr

Strategies to Eradicate TuberculosisTuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that mainly affects an individual’s lungs and spreads when people with the infection cough or sneeze and release tiny droplets into the air. People in the surroundings inhale these droplets and they contract the same infection. Although the disease affects the lungs the most, in some rare cases the infection can affect the bones, glands or even the nervous system, causing severe symptoms that include fever, fatigue and a long-term cough that may be bloody. The World Health Organization (WHO) has implemented strategies to eradicate tuberculosis across the globe in order to reduce preventable deaths.

Being the world’s leading infectious disease, impacting a quarter of the population, TB claimed the lives of more than 1.6 million people in 2021, according to WHO. Even though TB is present in all countries and in all age groups, it is curable and preventable.

Understanding TB: Most Affected Countries and Why?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia are most susceptible to TB. There are many reasons why some countries have higher rated of TB infections than others:

  • Weak Health Systems: Low-income and middle-income countries have a lower standard of medical care due to a lack of funds, resources and availability of medical professionals, which leads to fewer clinics and hospitals where individuals can get tests or treatments for TB.
  • Poverty: Low funds in underdeveloped countries and an increased financial burden on individuals mean people often have to make the decision between buying food or life-saving medications. Additionally, due to a lack of sufficient funds, people tend to live together in cramped quarters, making it easier for the disease to spread to the residents.
  • Diseases: Pre-existing diseases such as HIV, diabetes, malnutrition and the frequent use of tobacco can make individuals more susceptible to TB, according to the WHO.

These factors combined make it extremely difficult to screen for TB in low-income countries and most people do not have access to medical facilities, and those who do, are unable to use them because they cannot afford to.

The Fight Against TB

There have been many strategies to eradicate TB in LMCs and one of the most recent and most impactful has been the WHO’s End TB Strategy “to reduce TB incidence by 50% and mortality by 75% by 2025,” according to The Lancet Global Health. Through a multi-step initiative, WHO aims to eradicate TB by 2035.

  • Vaccination at Birth: The first step toward ending TB is through immunizing children against the disease from birth. In 2018, after extensive research WHO established a new criterion for vaccination against TB which stated, “For infants, a vaccine should be either better than BCG or at least 80% effective in preventing TB.”
  • Vaccination for Children and Teens: As part of a trial, routine vaccination was implemented for children who were 9 years old, and a one-time vaccination was implemented for children more than 10 years old. This trial lasted five years and the results revealed that both routine vaccination and a one-time vaccination were effective against the disease, but the routine vaccinations had a higher success rate.
  • Vaccination for Adults: A newly-developed vaccine known medically as the M72/AS01 vaccine has been 49.7% efficient in preventing the progression of TB.

Looking Ahead

In the fight against tuberculosis, significant strides have been made through initiatives like the WHO’s End TB Strategy. Vaccination efforts targeting children and teens have proven effective, while a newly-developed vaccine for adults shows promise in preventing the progression of TB. These advancements offer hope in reducing the incidence and mortality rates of this infectious disease, bringing us closer to a world free from the burden of tuberculosis.

– Vahisté Sinor
Photo: Flickr