50 years of tuberculosis control in India: Progress, pitfalls and the way forward
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- John, T.J., Vashishtha, V.M. & John, S.M. Indian Pediatr (2013) 50: 93. doi:10.1007/s13312-013-0021-4
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India established the National Tuberculosis Control Project (NTCP) 50 years ago and re-designed it as Revised NTCP (RNTCP) 19 years ago. Tuberculosis (TB) control was beset with obstacles — BCG vaccination was found ineffective in TB control in 1979; human immunodeficiency virus began spreading in India since 1984 with TB as the commonest opportunistic disease; multi-drug resistance was found to be prevalent since 1992. The World Health Organization declared TB as global emergency in 1993. Yet, RNTCP was extended to the whole nation very slowly, taking 13 years from inception. The first objective of RNTCP, namely 85% treatment success has been achieved and case-fatality had dropped by 90%. Still, TB burden continues to remain huge; about half the cases are not getting registered under RNTCP; pediatric TB is neglected; TB drains national economy of US$ 23 billion annually. Therefore, TB control is in urgent need of re-design and re-invigoration, with additional inputs and system re-organization to cover all such gaps. We highlight the need for Public Health infrastructure under which all vertical disease control projects such as RNTCP should be synergized for better efficiency and for establishing Public Health Surveillance for collecting denominator-based data on incidence and prevalence to guide course corrections. India ought to spend 3 to 5 times more on TB control than at present. Control needs clear epidemiologic definition and measurable parameters for monitoring the level of control over time. TB control is both a measure of, and a means to, socioeconomic development.