Death due to incurable diseases like HIV is inevitable and pushes scientific institutions to invest time, money and human resources to discover treatment of the symptoms, if not the disease.
But when millions of children die due to a curable disease, it is a bitter pill to swallow. In 2015, there were one million estimated cases of Tuberculosis in children which accounts for a huge part of the tuberculosis burden.
According to a recent study published in the prestigious science journal Lancet, an estimated 2,39,000 children younger than 15 years died from tuberculosis worldwide in 2015, with 1,91,000 cases being in children younger than five years. WHO southeast Asia and Africa regions accounted for more than 70% of these deaths.
Commenting upon the situation of tuberculosis in India, Dr Rajesh Chawla Sr. Consultant (Critical care, Pulmonary and Sleep disorders), Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals New Delhi said, 40% of population in India are infected with Tb bacteria. Only 10% of these people will develop active TB during their lifetime. It is increased by six times in patients of HIV. The regime for treating TB has changed recently, now four drugs are given for two months & three drugs for four months. There is no treatment of TB which is less than six months. There are attempts to reduce the duration of treatment of TB till four months. Bedaquilline & Delamanid are drugs being introduced to treat MDR TB. Side effects of drugs are more in HIV patients."
"The government has tried to bring attention to this critical situation, but lack of awareness as well as ignorance about the repercussions is the main reason TB is so widespread in India. We need extensive public campaigns to address this issue, while at the same time we need to build a competent infrastructure at the national level to combat global health hazard" the doctor added.
Another glaring factor which has emerged from this study is that 17% of these deaths were in children who were HIV-positive, a huge chunk of which was found to be in African countries.
While TB is severe in children in any case, for HIV positive children it is a death sentence. But the major finding of the study was that most of the children (about 96%) died due to TB because they did not receive treatment for the disease. The study follows that mortality rates in children on receiving treatment could almost be halved if the case-detection ratio for children improves from the current statistics comparing it with one in three to the two in three currently achieved in adults.