Increasing tuberculosis detection gap, a growing concern

The health ministry says high detection gap of tuberculosis or TB in the country is a major concern. The gap occurs when the cases that could be diagnosed are missed or not tested. The health ministry reported that 37 per cent of estimated TB cases in the country are not diagnosed so far. While the detection gap is even higher at around 67 per cent for multidrug-resistant or MDR-TB.

Given the significant detection gap, the health minister said the disease will spread further and increase the burden of TB and MDR- TB in the country.

According to the minister, 11 per cent of the MDR-TB cases are those who are primarily infected with MDR-TB.

“We are encouraging people who have symptoms to come forward for testing. But not many people are coming forward for testing because they think that cough, fever, sweating, or weight loss is part of their normal life and don’t come forward for testing. For us to close the detection gap, people must come forward for testing so that we can detect the disease early,” added the minister.

Poor compliance with medication is another concern. Eight per cent of MDR-TB cases are those who got TB in the past.

“For TB, it is a long treatment process, so people become complacent. You do not complete the medication this time and the next time when you get it, it can develop drug resistance, the medicine that was working before will not work. So, you have to use higher-generation drugs and as you go up the options are very small. So, you might reach a stage where no current antibiotics are available that will work on you.”

The minister said there has to be a certain level of accountability and responsibility from the patients as well.

Meanwhile, the ministry will be working on sensitizing the public on TB. The ministry is also looking at enhancing testing in order to narrow or close the detection gap.

The ministry will receive five TB testing machines this month. Currently, there are 11 testing machines in hospitals across the country.

Kinley Dem

Edited by Sherub Dorji

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