New Delhi, July 23: A new study revealing a poor decline in the incidence of tuberculosis (TB) over the past decade suggests that India should invest more of its scarce health resources into TB control and research than on HIV control, researchers have said.
The study, published on Tuesday in medical journal The Lancet, has shown that the annual rate of decrease of TB in India between 2000 and 2013 has been 1.13 per cent. India’s prevalence of TB in 2013 was 275 per 100,000 people, much higher than the global average of 162 per 100,000.
By contrast, the annual rate of decrease in the incidence of HIV infections in India over the same period was 11.8 per cent, while in malaria it was around 3.3 per cent, according to the study by an international consortium of researchers led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle.
“While TB seems to be on a slow decline, the emergence of multi-drug resistant strains of TB makes it a far more dangerous disease than even HIV,” said Nobhojit Roy, a surgeon at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Hospital, Mumbai, and co-author of the study.
“The data highlights the need to push more resources into TB,” Roy said.
But the study also found that the TB deaths in South Asia, a region dominated by India, have declined annually by about 4.2 per cent over the past decade, compared to a global decline of 3.7 per cent. In east Asia, the decline was 7.5 per cent.
Roy and his colleagues — nearly 1,000 researchers from 106 countries — analysed the global, regional and national incidence and deaths from HIV, malaria, and TB over the past two decades.
India’s annual rate of decline of new HIV infections between 2000 and 2013 was around 16 per cent — over four times the decline in the global figure of about 3.9 per cent.
“The global investment in HIV treatment is saving lives at a rapid clip,” Christopher Murray, the director of the Seattle-based IHME, said in a release on Tuesday.
The study was based on what the researchers have called a novel way of “triangulating” the incidence and deaths from the three infections over time.
The study estimates that more than 545,000 Indians died from TB while the malaria parasite infected over 60 million and killed about 116,000 people across the country in 2013.
Public health experts have in the past often warned that the tools to combat malaria — from mosquito nets to techniques to control mosquitoes — have remained poorly used in India.
A national health survey released by a non-government consortium last week, for instance, showed that only 28 per cent of urban households and 34 per cent of rural homes used such nets.
The National Institute of Malaria Research, New Delhi, had more than 30 years ago shown through studies that nets are among the most effective ways to avoid mosquito bites.