India needs advanced diagnostics to combat tuberculosis (TB) early and accurately in the wake of drug resistance, an expert said, adding that several such systems are under development.
The need of the hour is point-of-care tests (POCT) which essentially brings the tests to the suspected person, increasing the likelihood of faster detection and quick initiation of management strategies, said Indian microbiologist N.K. Ganguly.
"If we can improve POCT and bring in sensitive, inexpensive methods, then it will be a great help," Ganguly, the former director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said.
The GeneXpert MTB/RIF, which diagnoses the disease by detecting the presence of TB bacteria, as well as testing for resistance to the drug Rifampicin, is in introduction stage. It uses sputum sample and can give a result in less than two hours.
"All of them are under evaluation. However, the GeneXpert is in introduction stage and LED microscopy has been recommended by the WHO in 2011 to be used. These tests are essential for TB but some common platforms could be used for HIV also," said Ganguly, a visiting professor at the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, an autonomous institute of the department of biotechnology under the union science and technology ministry.
In addition, he advocated better management in therapy since some patients, who experience initial reactions to drugs, turn away from the treatment which is a major issue, compounding the problem of drug resistance.
Ganguly, along with a group of global health experts including from Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), has called for the creation of a global health research and development fund and mechanism to address deadly gaps in innovation for emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola, anti-microbial resistance, and a host of other diseases that have been neglected by the pharmaceutical market.
The essay was published in the PLOS Medicine journal dated May 11.