- World TB Day 2022 – March 24
What the editorial is about?
- How best we can leverage the lessons learnt from Covid-19 to help gain new momentum in TB control.
- The need to focus on the epidemiological triad: Agent, host and the environment.
The need to use Covid lessons for TB control
- Covid-19 and tuberculosis (TB) are remarkably similar.
- They are transmissible, airborne infections.
- Both are more likely to spread in crowded settings and harm people with immuno-compromising conditions.
The impact and response: Covid VS TB
- In the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, 1.8 million people were reported to have succumbed to the virus.
- In the decade between 2010-20, 1.5-2 million individuals died every year because of tuberculosis.
- Yet, we seldom see the word “pandemic” used in the context of TB.
- The amount of money spent by governments for research and development in the first 11 months of the Covid-19 pandemic was 162 times the corresponding amount spent on TB in 2020.
- The difference in responses to the two pandemics can only be explained by the differences in the profiles of those who get infected.
- TB disproportionately affects people in low-income nations, the poor and the vulnerable.
How can we use the lessons from Covid-19 for TB control?
- There is a need to focus on the epidemiological triad:
- The environment
- Test, treat and track have been a strategy successfully employed for Covid.
- There is a need to aggressively scale up testing with innovative strategies such as
- Active surveillance
- Bidirectional screening for respiratory tract infections using the most sensitive molecular diagnostics, and contact tracing.
- The biggest victory against Covid has been the speed with which vaccines were developed, scaled up and deployed.
- There is a need to replicate the same for tuberculosis, lobbying for funding from governments and industry to develop a successful vaccine for TB.
Social security programs
- Malnutrition, poverty and immuno-compromising conditions such as diabetes are some of the factors strongly associated with TB.
- Social security programs that work towards the prevention of modifiable risk factors would possibly pay richer dividends than an exclusive focus on “medicalizing” the disease.
- Environmental factors which have been neglected include ventilation of indoor spaces, educating individuals to avoid crowds when possible and encouraging voluntary masking, especially in ill-ventilated and closed spaces.
- We must not lose this opportunity to invest in these measures, at a time when the sensitization to their need is high.
Investment and actions
- Covid has been a stellar example of how investments and actions can be swift, and public education can transform behaviour.
- Similar aspirations for TB can help turn this crisis into an opportunity to re-imagine our overburdened and underfunded systems.
- There is a need to actively engage the private sector, build bridges and partnerships as we did in the case of Covid.
- India needs to invest in state-of-the-art technologies, build capacity, expand its health workforce and strengthen its primary care facilities.
Telemedicine and remote support
- India also needs to consider telemedicine and remote support as important aspects of health services.
An open and collaborative forum
- India needs to build an open and collaborative forum where all stakeholders, especially affected communities and independent experts, take a lead role.
Practice Question for Mains
- It’s time we acknowledge the magnitude of the TB disease and work harder at offering individuals equitable healthcare access and resources that the disease warrants. Comment. (250 Words, 15 Marks)