India’s fight against Tuberculosis

Prelims level : Governance Mains level : GS-II Governance - Issues Relating to Development & Management of Health
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Why in News?

  • The One World TB Summit was organised in Varanasi by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Stop TB Partnership.


  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the One World TB Summit on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day (March 24)
  • PM Modi emphasised the need for innovation and new strategies to achieve the desired outcomes in global tuberculosis (TB) elimination response.
  • He highlighted India’s multi-pronged approach to tackling TB in the past nine years and also reiterated India’s future commitment to spearhead this effort.

Lesson:s from the COVID-19 response

  • One of the most significant lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is the need to strengthen healthcare systems, particularly in low- and middle-income countries like India.
  • A strong health system is critical for the effective management of infectious diseases such as TB.
  • By investing in healthcare infrastructure, increasing the availability of health workers, and improving access to medicines and diagnostic tools, India can improve its capacity to detect, diagnose, and treat TB cases.
  • In India, TB control programs can benefit from involving communities in awareness campaigns, contact tracing, and treatment adherence. This can help to reduce the stigma associated with TB and improve treatment outcomes.
  • According to the recent National TB Prevalence Survey, 64% of individuals with contagious TB in India did not seek medical attention, leading to a situation where nearly two cases go undetected for every TB case reported at the national level.
  • Telemedicine, remote consultations, and digital health platforms can help in the early detection of TB, improve treatment adherence, and provide real-time monitoring and reporting of TB cases.
  • Using effective data management to monitor the incidence and prevalence of TB, identify high-risk populations, and track treatment outcomes, India can develop targeted interventions and allocate resources more effectively.
  • India has a significant burden of drug-resistant TB, and research and development can help in developing new, more effective treatments and diagnostic tools.
  • The Mission COVID Suraksha programme to develop vaccines was a good example of a public-private partnership, with clear goals and outcomes.
  • The huge number of diagnostic tests developed and a variety of different vaccine platforms show that our manufacturing sector is robust and can scale rapidly.

Vaccine Trials:

  • The fight against TB requires the development of an effective vaccine, improved accessibility and affordability of testing and diagnosis, and the introduction of new therapeutic molecules.
  • The Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine does not provide adequate protection for high-risk groups, highlighting the need for a new vaccine.
  • Point-of-Care Tests (POCTs) and handheld digital X-ray machines can provide rapid and affordable testing.
  • The introduction of new therapeutic molecules such as the 1HP regimen for latent TB infections, the four-month regimen (HPZM) for drug-susceptible TB, and the six-month regimen (BPaL/M) for drug-resistant TB can also play a crucial role.
  • While progress has been made, more efforts are needed to prioritise clinical trials for vaccine candidates, scale-up effective regimens, and repurpose existing drugs for TB treatment.

Way Forward: Appropriate policy frameworks

  • Strengthening the innovation ecosystem by creating regulatory and policy frameworks to facilitate the rollout of proven tools.
  • Collaboration is needed between policymakers, scientists, product developers, and clinical researchers across regions and potentially even between governments.
  • Harmonisation of standards and regulatory processes between countries can save critical time towards rollout by enabling mutual recognition of evidence-based standards and licences.
  • Creation of a strong platform that channelises investments in research to bring in a paradigm shift at every stage of the TB care cascade — prevention, testing, and treatment.
  • India has the opportunity, as the G-20 president, to create a global health architecture that ensures equitable access for all.
  • India can lead the way in eradicating TB as the leading infectious disease killer globally in the 21st century.
  • Collaborative development of transformational tools and approaches is necessary to address the needs of both developed and developing countries, especially those who are under-represented and disproportionately affected.
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