India uses technology to battle tuberculosis

Tuberculosis

India’s government, in conjunction with private companies and aid groups, is using new technological innovations to modernize the country’s anti-tuberculosis campaign and stop the spread of drug-resistant strains.

The government is in the process of replacing a paper system for TB patient registration with a web-based database meant to track every dose of medicine given to patients. The system can send text messages to patients when they miss a dose, CTV reports.

A new TB test called the Truelab Micro PCR System can quickly identify drug-resistant patients to ensure they are given proper treatment with a longer course of particular medicines.

Operation ASHA, an independent health group, is supplementing the test with a finger verification program to make sure patients take their full course of medicine to prevent the strain from becoming more drug-resistant.

“There’s more innovation in the last year than in the prior decade in TB control,” Peter Small, a tuberculosis expert at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offices in India, said, according to CTV.

The government is proposing to quadruple its funding for TB and expand its laboratory network. Though not all healthcare workers are convinced the new systems will work.

Zarir Udwadia, a Mumbai doctor who found some of the most resistant strains, said that he is pessimistic about the country’s ability to stop drug-resistant TB. Udwadia doubted the government’s ability to control a health system where doctors without training can treat TB patients and pharmacists often give out antibiotics without prescriptions.

Public health experts remain optimistic that new technology can make an impact in India.

“They can really turn the tide,” Small said, according to CTV. “And if they don’t, it’s scary.”

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