TB MAY EMERGE AS AN EPIDEMIC IN PAKISTAN

KANWAL SALEEM, LAHORE
Aug 13 - 19, 2007

Poor socio-economic conditions, lack of food, nutrition and proper sanitation are causing rapid spread of the disease of tuberculosis (TB)in the third world countries and if proper measures are not adopted it may emerge as an epidemic in Pakistan as well.

These views were expressed by the Provincial Minister for Special Education

Dr Tahir Ali Javed, Chairman Standing Committee for Health Punjab Dr. Muzaffar Ali Sheikh, and Chairman Pakistan Medical Society (PMS), Dr. Masood Akhtar Sheikh at a workshop held under the auspices of Pakistan Medical Society in connection with the "future of tuberculosis in the third world countries, including Pakistan". A good number of doctors, and social and community workers attended the workshop.

''TB DOTS programme is an effective tool to stop the spread of tuberculosis in the third world countries, including Pakistan, they added.

The Minister for Special Education Dr Tahir Javed said in his speech that entire society could fell victim to this disease and it could turn into epidemic if proper measures were not adopted. In every 20 seconds one person is dying of tuberculosis, he said. According to him, awareness about the tuberculosis, improvement of the socioeconomic conditions, and in time diagnosis and treatment is necessary to control the disease.

Dr Masood Akhtar Sheikh said that under the current scenario of the third world countries, including Pakistan, DOT treatment policies and strategy is one of the best world wide, in which the cost of the diagnosis and therapeutic is borne by the government. The government is spending huge funds and providing free medicines through the outlets of the TB DOTS clinic in tertiary care hospital. Any deviation from the standard regime of the Dots may result in the emergence of the multi drug resistance (MDR) tuberculosis, he added.

Dr Muzaffar Sheikh emphasized that a comprehensive campaign need to be launched against TB. He added that the awareness about the disease is vital not only among those living in the cities and towns, but also amongst the rural population. "We must aim to eradicate the tuberculosis from the world completely," he added.

The workshop concluded with the consensus that the supervised treatment of tuberculosis under the umbrella of the DOTS will result in 100 % curative response in the public. This will help improve the health status of the general public at large.

It may be mentioned that the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the Stop TB Partnership have launched a $2.15 billion two-year programme to save over 100,000 lives.

The new initiative lays out steps to prevent, treat and control drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). If fully implemented, the plan, which sets out measures to allow laboratories in countries with high levels of the disease to increase their detection of MDR-TB cases, will lead to a ten-fold surge in the number of XDR-TB and MDR-TB patients who will be treated and cured under WHO guidelines. The program also underscores the urgency with which basic tuberculosis control and investment in crucial areas such as bolstering diagnostic laboratories, increasing infection control and surveillance and tepping up funding for research are needed.

According to a message received here, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that XDR-TB is a threat to the security and stability of global health.

This response plan identifies costs, milestones and priorities for health services that will continue to have an impact beyond its two-year time line, he added.

According to sources, the plan, called the Global MDR-TB and XDR-TB Response Plan 2007-2008, also jumpstarts efforts towards reaching a 2015 goal of providing access to drugs and testing to all patients affected by these two disease types, potentially rescuing the lives of 1.2 million people. XDR-TB first came to the world's attention in March 2006 when researchers reported that emerging global threat posed by highly-resistant strains of the disease, and six months later, there was a spate of cases resulting in over 50 deaths of "virtually untreatable" cases in an area of South Africa with a high prevalence of HIV.