India continues to face the challenge of a range of infectious diseases. Every fifth new tuberculosis case in the world lives in the Indian subcontinent according to latest studies. Over and above the country is also under the threat of outbreak of a host of viral infections, the latest being the Zika virus. The situation calls for steps on a war-footing to contain India’s vulnerability to these outbreaks.
India tops the list of countries vulnerable to infectious diseases of all sorts including tuberculosis, Japanese Encephalitis, HIV, Bird flu and many more. Although health authorities have assured that there is no need for panic about the latest menace of Zika virus, it is not wise to be complacent. India has been less severely affected by the HIV epidemic than many other countries, despite early predictions of disaster, but still has almost three million people living with the virus. Bacterial resistance is a growing threat because of the widespread misuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics, according to experts. Of course, Tuberculosis remains one of the most widespread infections within the country.
Reports show India being the country harboring the highest number of TB cases in 2014, followed by Indonesia and China. Concerns about resistant strains of TB are also growing in the country. A recent WHO report says that India has the highest number of TB resistant strains in the world, and person infected with the bacteria is estimated to transmit it to an estimated 15 people within a year.
A matter of grave concern
This trend is in line with the current state of bacterial resistance in the country which has been criticised for its high level of corruption, lack of sanitation and generally low adherence of patients. Nonetheless, research in the field of tuberculosis is still ongoing and new therapeutic treatments are developed for example in the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, where new techniques aim to reduce bacterial resistance.
The outbreak of swine flu that claimed more than 1500 lives in February of 2015 may have been the result of a new mutated strain, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This strain has been deemed more dangerous. In Maharashtra, 38 deaths and 378 cases of swine flu have been reported in the first eight days of September 2015. A new trend observed, is that 36% of the deaths occurred on healthy patients with no known previous illnesses. This is a new trend observed worldwide according to experts.
Extensively drug resistant TB (XDR TB) is a rare type of MDR TB that is resistant to ionized and rifampin, plus any fluoroquinolone and at least one of three injectable second-line drugs (i.e., amikacin, kanamycin, or capreomycin). Because XDR TB is resistant to the most potent TB drugs, patients are left with treatment options that are much less effective, a study says.
International funds for India’s National AIDS Control Programme have dried up severely, posing a serious threat of recurrence of new HIV cases. Estimates show a reduction of almost 90% in funding from various multilateral, bilateral and philanthropic donor organisations over the last three years.
(Read the full article in the March issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2016)