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India's Mutant Untreatable Tuberculosis

Updated on June 20, 2012
The x-ray shows TB (white area of lung)
The x-ray shows TB (white area of lung)
Wasting away is a typical sign of TB
Wasting away is a typical sign of TB

TB or tuberculosis breeds and thrives well in poor, third world nations like India. The disease has been eradicated in most of the world. TB is an airborne disease that attacks the lungs. It was found in Egyptian mummies and medical records as far back to Hippocrates. Until the 1940's, it was a deadly disease until streptomycin was discovered and chemotherapy usually cured it in six months. Some of the worse countries for this disease are Brazil, China, India, and Russia.

India's mutant untreatable strain began in Dec. 2011, with four cases that did not respond to any treatment. By the end of January, 2012, it was 15 cases. When compared to the treatable strains that affect 2.3 million Indians, the number is small, but all serious epidemics begin small. That is why the World Health Organization is quite concerned about containing this mutant strain because in a period of 45 days, the numbers went fro 4 to 15. Added to this worry, already 100,000 Indians have a strain that is difficult to treat with the normal drugs because the disease DNA is adapting and changing. However, India is just following previously discovered mutant strains, the first were discovered in Italy in 2007, in 2009, it popped up in Iran. All resistant to the 12 treatments available to fight TB.

India has one of the better TB programs costing them $230 million a year to operate a army of 640,000 medical personal to combat it in 13,000 centers for diagnosis.

The mutant strains in India are not new India. Doctors there have been warning officials since 2003, that TB has been resistant to the normal drugs available in India's hospitals. In the hospitals in Mumbai, TB is rampant. Doctors there see 50 patients an hour for the TB assessment and x-rays, or about a person a minute! They are concerned about the exposure as well. The financial cost to families is also costly because the Indian government only pays to treat the standard strain and when a person has a resistant strain, families must pay themselves. That can cost $6,000 and for a person earning $60 a month, that is enormous wealth.

To combat this mutant strain, India has built 37 special labs and is treating 5000 patients, all with resistant TB strains. The machines able to detect these special TB strains cost $70,000 each and a patient's expense is $16. Again, most of the infected people are poor and earn not more than $60 a month. So, when a family member has the TB strain, it means other necessities must go or cutback. One family sold everything it owned to save their loved one. In the end, it did not help

Doctors in India feel they can only hope to stop a pandemic, that, delay and cost has made their efforts like, "chasing a snowball going downhill". This is not a good prognosis for that region of the world or the rest of us.


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