The government of India is all up and set to fight against critical medical conditions, with Tuberculosis (TB) in India topping its hit-list. As such, the current situation of tuberculosis in India is going from bad to worse and needs to be addressed at the earliest. 

There is a serious need to achieve the government’s objective of eliminating tuberculosis from the country, by the end of 2025. For which, necessary measures are being taken in the form of India Health Fund’s TB Quest. The aim is to find and support innovations that will work towards eradicating tuberculosis in India. Let’s dig deeper and find out more about the initiative.

TB in India 

TB in India is a public health problem and makes it the world’s largest tuberculosis epidemic. According to a WHO (World Health Organization) report of 2019, India makes up for around 27% of the total world’s population as far as reported cases of tuberculosis are considered. Each year, around 220,000 deaths are reported due to tuberculosis. Between 2006 and 2016, TB cost the Indian economy an approximate of USD 340 billion. 

On TB Day, i.e. March 24, 2019, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare of India notified that around 2.15 million new TB cases have been reported only in 2018.

TB is India’s biggest health problem, but what adds to the already serious problem is the recently discovered phenomenon of TDR-TB or Totally Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis. TDR-TB began with MDR-TB (Multidrug-resistant TB) and moved on to XDR-TB (Extensively drug-resistant TB). Currently, TDR-TB is the most dangerous form of tuberculosis in India. 

What is being done towards TB in India?

Apart from other necessary measures like nationwide public health programs, the government has also launched the TB Quest in a bid to completely eradicate TB from India. 

An ambitious countrywide initiative, the TB Quest is aimed at searching for innovators who will work towards bringing in solutions to eliminate tuberculosis in India. TB Quest aims at supporting innovation and entrepreneurship to devise the key challenges in the fight against TB. It will help researchers and innovators in funding, technical mentorship, hand-holding for the lab-to-market journey and adhering with government policies. 

Going forward, the Quest invites multiple product and process solutions based on bringing a revolutionary change across the following:

  • Bringing “missing” TB patients and identifying new cases and giving them proper care continuum.
  • Screening and apt management of Latent TB Infection (LTBI).
  • Air-based infection control across healthcare facilities, crowded habitations, and other risky settings.
  • Using innovative technologies to address gaps in the supply chain of anti-TB drugs in both the public and private sectors.

Who all are involved in the TB Quest?

The TB Quest is set up by the India Health Fund (IFH), which is seeded by Tata Trusts. It has also received support from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The TB Quest is being co-partnered by the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare, Science and Technology, and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP), an initiative of the Department of Biotechnology, and Government of India along with non-profit organizations like Social Alpha and Stop TB.

How successful is the TB Quest yet?

The outcome of TB Quest has been good so far. In December 2019, the India Health Fund hosted an award function to recognize and honor the efforts of entities that lent their support towards TB Quest. Below are some of the innovations that came forth as achievements by the award winners: 

  • CisGEN Biotech Discoveries Pvt. Ltd. focussed on the problem of TB transmission from animals to humans by developing an innovative technology-driven kit that combines native and recombinant antigens to detect bovine TB.
  • Technologies Pvt. Ltd. investigated the problem of the false and slow diagnosis of tuberculosis in India, especially in the remote areas. 
  • Valetude Primus Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. invented a device that has made it more efficient and faster to collect sputum.
  • Centre for Health Research & Innovation created an ecosystem that leads to quicker diagnosis and treatment of TB patients.
  • Sense does Technologies developed TMEAD (Tuberculosis Monitoring Encouragement Adherence Drive) that provides alarm-based and digital notification-based reminders to patients, whilst all prescribed medicines are pre-sorted and pre-filled. 

The takeaway

The TB Quest is looked upon as a catalyst for fast-track adoption and gauging innovative practices and platforms with prior validation. Further, these innovations would be the cornerstone for strengthening and transforming key aspects of the TB care ecosystem in a nonlinear manner.