MDR-TB cases in India increase more than five-fold in two years

Minister says better surveillance and detection is the reason

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Wednesday 16 July 2014

imageThe number of cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) has registered a steep increase in two years—from 4,297 in 2011 to 23,325 in 2013. The estimated proportion of MDR-TB cases in India is less than three per cent among new TB cases. But it is as high as 12-17 per cent among those getting re-treated. All these patients were put on treatment under the government programme.

The figures were given by Union health minister Harsh Vardhan in Parliament on Tuesday. But he added that the increase should not be seen as a spurt in MDR cases, but rather as a success of Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) .

"The detection of MDR-TB cases has been increasing due to availability of more diagnostic facilities for MDR-TB and coverage of the entire country through Programmatic Management of Drug Resistant TB (PMDT) under RNTCP between 2007 and 2013," said the minister.

Even though better surveillance enabled detection of more number of patients than before, increasing antibiotic resistance as a reason cannot be underestimated.

"This is true. More cases are being detected due to better surveillance. But we can't deny that there has been an increase in antibiotic resistance. I see count of resistant cases rising every day," said Anuj Bhatnagar, doctor at Rajan Babu Institute of Pulmonary Medicine and Tuberculosis (RBIPMT), New Delhi.

He added that there is more cause to worry. "Almost one-third of all MDR cases are resistant to floroquinolone, which forms the backbone of MDR-TB treatment. This means such patients are only one step short of XDR-TB [extensively drug resistant TB]," said Bhatnagar.

In 2013, Maharashtra registered maximum number of MDR-TB cases with 5,306, Rajasthan was second highest with 2,131 cases and Gujarat third with 1,971.

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