TB diagnosis within 3 weeks soon

Delhi to acquire technology that will allow faster diagnosis and early medical intervention


Sonal Matharu | April 22, 2010

Diagnosing TB (Tuberculosis), which normally takes more than eight weeks with the present available technology, will soon be done within three weeks in the city, preventing first-stage TB cases from becoming drug-resistant. New Delhi Tuberculosis Centre (NTDC), Delhi government’s institution that provides treatment to patients in the city and supervises 26 district TB centres, would soon install new technology in its labs, which would cut time for diagnosis by more than half, said Dr VK Dhingra, director, NTDC, on Thursday.

"With faster diagnosis, the treatment of patients can start within a week. This will prevent the disease from becoming drug-resistant,” said Dhingra.“Rapid diagnostic method for diagnosing resistant TB will start at NDTC in less than six months. As soon as the labs are ready, these machines would be operational.”

Delhi has received Rs 45 lakh under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) for this project. The machines for diagnosis are provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) through the health ministry and are already at the centre. On WHO recommendations, a bio-safety level- three lab would be constructed for hygiene purposes where the new machines would be operated upon. Three rooms with different pressure levels are required for testing in this lab.

In the present solid culture system, the sputum samples of the patients are processed and the microorganisms are grown in laboratories by feeding them synthetic food. This process takes up to eight weeks. Once complete, these samples are then tested with the TB drugs to check the drug sensitivity, which takes another six to eight weeks.

With the new technology, the sputum would be processed under liquid culture system. The method would be the same but instead of solid, the microorganisms would be grown in liquid form. Their drug sensitivity can also be tested simultaneously.

“This entire procedure would take not more than three weeks,” said Dr M Hanif, microbiologist, NDTC. He added that even after the rapid diagnosis method is operational, the old technique would continue to be used. “We will check the feasibility of this new technique for some years and once fully satisfied, only then the old machines will be disposed off,” said Hanif.

Every year 50,000 patients are registered in Delhi under Directly Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS) treatment, the first-line drug treatment for TB patients under the national TB programme, out of which four percent are defaulters. DOTS-Plus, second-line drugs treatment for Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) was introduced by the government in 2008 and around 400 in Delhi are on enrolled under it at present. MDR-TB is a complex form of TB where the patients become resistant to the first-line drugs. Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Nagpur in Maharashtra and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh already have the new rapid testing labs for TB. Delhi is the fourth state to get this technique. Medical colleges in Delhi too would soon have these machines installed.



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