Tuberculosis (TB): Facts, Symptoms, Impact & Efforts

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Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious illness caused by bacteria that mostly affects the lungs. It spreads when infected people cough, sneeze, or spit. However, TB can be prevented and treated with antibiotics.

  • About a quarter of the world’s population has been exposed to TB bacteria, but not everyone who gets infected will develop the disease.
  • TB can be fatal if not treated. In some countries, babies and children receive the BCG vaccine to prevent TB, but it may not fully protect against lung TB.

Key Facts about Tuberculosis (TB)

  • In 2021, about 1.6 million people, including those with HIV, died from TB, making it the 13th leading cause of death globally and the second deadliest infectious disease after COVID-19.
  • An estimated 10.6 million people fell ill with TB in 2021, affecting people of all ages and genders, but it is preventable and curable.
  • Drug-resistant TB is a major health crisis, with only about 1 in 3 people with drug-resistant TB accessing treatment in 2021.
  • TB diagnosis and treatment saved about 74 million lives between 2000 and 2021.
  • Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is one of the health goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Symptoms of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by bacteria.

  • People with latent TB don’t feel sick and can’t spread it to others. Only a small number of infected individuals will develop TB disease and experience symptoms like a prolonged cough, chest pain, weakness, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.
  • Certain conditions, such as diabetes, weakened immune system (like HIV or AIDS), malnutrition, and tobacco use, increase the risk of developing TB disease.

Diagnosis of Tuberculosis (TB)

TB can be diagnosed using rapid tests, but it’s challenging to diagnose in children.
TB disease is treated with antibiotics, which must be taken daily for 4-6 months to be effective. Drug-resistant TB requires different, more toxic medicines.

Multidrug-Resistant TB (MDR-TB)

  • It happens when TB bacteria become resistant to common medicines due to improper use or early treatment stoppage.
  • MDR-TB doesn’t respond to the usual first-line drugs, isoniazid, and rifampicin.
  • It requires more toxic second-line drugs for treatment, which can be expensive.
  • Sometimes, even these drugs may not work, leaving patients with very limited treatment options.
  • MDR-TB is a major health crisis and security threat, with only a third of affected people accessing treatment in 2021.

Impact of Tuberculosis

  • Affect Productivity: Tuberculosis mainly affects adults during their most productive years, but people of all ages can be at risk.
  • Effects Developing Countries More: Most cases and deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Infect Wide Population: TB is found all over the world, with the highest number of new cases in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Western Pacific regions.
  • High Burden on Global South Countries: Many new TB cases are concentrated in 30 high-burden countries, including Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
  • Increased Out-of-Pocket Expenditure: The financial burden of TB is significant for affected households, with close to half facing costs exceeding 20% of their income.
  • Comorbidity: People with compromised immune systems, like those with HIV, undernutrition, diabetes, or tobacco use, have a higher risk of falling ill with TB. Undernutrition, alcohol use, and smoking contribute to millions of new TB cases globally.

India’s Efforts to Fight Tuberculosis

India has a National Strategic Plan for Tuberculosis Elimination (2017-2025) and initiatives like the Nikshay Ecosystem for TB information and the Nikshay Poshan Yojana for financial support to TB patients.

Way Forward

Here are some strategies that India needs to continue to implement or strengthen to fight against TB:

  1. Enhanced Surveillance and Diagnosis: Improving TB surveillance systems can help identify and track cases more effectively. Increased efforts in early detection and timely diagnosis can lead to prompt treatment, reducing the transmission of TB in the community.
  2. Access to Healthcare: Ensuring that all individuals have access to quality healthcare, including TB diagnosis and treatment, is crucial. This involves providing affordable and accessible healthcare services, especially in remote and underserved areas.
  3. Strengthening Healthcare Infrastructure: Investing in healthcare infrastructure, including laboratories, diagnostic facilities, and treatment centers, is essential to improve the overall healthcare delivery system.
  4. Public Awareness and Education: Educating the public about TB transmission, symptoms, and the importance of seeking timely medical attention can lead to increased awareness and reduced stigma associated with the disease.
  5. Contact Tracing and Active Case Finding: Conducting contact tracing for individuals who have been in close contact with TB patients can help identify additional cases and prevent further spread of the disease. Active case finding involves actively searching for TB cases in high-risk populations, such as those living in crowded settings or with weakened immune systems.
  6. Improved Treatment and Adherence: Ensuring that patients receive the appropriate treatment regimen and adhere to it is vital for successful TB control. Regular monitoring and support to patients during their treatment can help prevent the development of drug-resistant TB.
  7. Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) Control: India faces a significant burden of MDR-TB. Strengthening efforts to diagnose, treat, and prevent MDR-TB is essential to curb its spread and improve patient outcomes.
  8. Public-Private Partnerships: Collaborating with the private sector can improve access to quality healthcare services, diagnostics, and treatment for TB patients.
  9. Research and Innovation: Investing in research and development for new and improved TB diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines can significantly enhance India’s efforts to control TB.
  10. International Cooperation: Engaging with international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and other countries with successful TB control programs, can help India learn from best practices and implement effective strategies.

Conclusion

Around US$ 13 billion annually is required to achieve global targets for TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care. Most of the spending comes from domestic sources, but international donor funding, especially from the Global Fund, remains crucial for low- and middle-income countries.

Additional funds are needed for research and development of new tools to fight TB effectively. Thus, if India was to become free of Tuberculosis it need a comprehensive approach and holistic strategy.

FAQs

What Causes Tuberculosis (TB)?

Tuberculosis is caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It spreads through the air when infected people cough, sneeze, or spit.

Can Tuberculosis be Cured?

Yes, tuberculosis can be cured. It is treated with antibiotics, and early treatment is important to prevent the spreading of the disease and improve recovery chances.

How Serious is Tuberculosis (TB)?

Tuberculosis can be serious, especially if left untreated. It can affect the lungs and other parts of the body, leading to symptoms like prolonged cough, chest pain, weakness, weight loss, and fever.

What are the 3 types of Tuberculosis?

There are three main types of TB: pulmonary TB (affecting the lungs), extrapulmonary TB (affecting other parts of the body), and latent TB (when the bacteria are in the body but not causing symptoms).

What are the 5 Stages of Tuberculosis?

The five stages of TB are exposure, infection, primary TB infection, latent TB infection, and active TB disease.

Who is at High Risk for Tuberculosis?

People with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV, undernutrition, diabetes, or tobacco use, are at higher risk of contracting TB.

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