GANGTOK: The biggest concern on India’s tuberculosis map is the state of Sikkim with an increase of 11 percent of new tuberculosis cases which are to be found multi-drug resistant (MDR), a figure which stands more at par with Mumbai.
Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB, also known as Vank’s disease) is defined as a form of TB infection caused by bacteria that are resistant to treatment with at least two of the most powerful first-line anti-TB drugs, isoniazid (INH) and rifampicin (RMP).
The Sikkim government held a meeting with various health agencies last week and is drawing up a plan to tackle the concern. Member of Parliament from Sikkim Prem Das Rai while speaking to a reputed national newspaper said that, “Recently, we held a workshop to collate all the information that the State has and find out ways to tackle the MDR and overall TB cases. We are also better equipped with modern diagnostic machines.”
Sikkim is a landlocked state bordered by Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal and the reason for the state’s high MDR-TB rate is still being explored, the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) institute in Dibrugarh (Assam) studied 120 MDR-TB strains of patients from Sikkim over the past year and identified 70 per cent of them as ‘Beijing strains’. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, director-general of ICMR said that the study is not published yet and they do not have a definitive explanation, but Beijing strain is more common in the northeast, China and Tibet. She also said that the strain is considered to be more virulent with a higher tendency to develop drug resistance.
Mumbai, with a population of 1.3 crore, recorded over 27,000 TB cases last year of which 3,300 were MDR-TB cases. In comparison, Sikkim, with a population of 6.1 lakh, recorded less than 2,000 cases last year, of which over 200 cases were of MDR-TB. Experts said that while Sikkim has been recording drug-resistant cases for some time, technology is now available to map it accurately.
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