NEW DELHI: Seven out of 10 private doctors in Bengaluru do not know how to correctly treat tuberculosis, a study by the National Tuberculosis Institute has revealed.
The shocking scenario, which likely exists in many other cities, punches holes in the government’s hopes of eradicating the disease by 2050 in line with the target set by the World Health Organisation.
TB, which had killed 1.3 million people the world over in 2016, is the prime cause of death from an infectious disease globally. India, which at 2.8 million, has the highest burden of the disease, had lost 4,80,000 people to the disease that year.
A highly contagious respiratory disease, TB spreads through the air. A single patient can infect at least 10 people in a year.
The study, which sampled 121 MBBS doctors including 62 postgraduates, has also found that only one in five — or 20 per cent — medical practitioners had what would be considered complete knowledge of how to correctly diagnose TB, and only 23 per cent knew about the side-effects of anti-TB drugs.
The findings add fresh evidence to long-standing concerns about gaps in knowledge among private practitioners that can delay TB treatment, harm patients, and threaten public health. The NTI study has also pointed out that earlier studies had come up with similar findings in Mumbai, Lucknow and Delhi.
In this year’s budget, the government has allocated `600 crore to provide `500 cash assistance for nutritious food during the course of treatment.
“The first point of approach for majority of TB patients is a private practitioner. However, studies across the country have revealed unsatisfactory knowledge and practices of PPs in treatment of TB,” the study said.
“Similar observations were made in Delhi in a study carried out about 20 years back. No improvement was observed in the knowledge of standard treatment regimen in Mumbai over a period of two decades,” it said, adding, “Poor knowledge of treatment regimen and guidelines has been observed in other studies.”
The analysis has also highlighted that any deviation from this regimen could make the TB bacilli drug-resistant, which harms patients and allows them to spread the germs to others.
Experts said that till doctors learned to diagnose and treat the disease properly, it could not be eliminated. “These findings should not surprise, but shame us. India’s doctors are still not confident about treating our most common and deadly infectious disease,” said Zarir F Udwadia, Consultant Chest Physician, PD Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai.