Recently Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh National Parliament, Md. Shamsul Haque Tuku, at a discussion meeting of Bangladesh’s first ever Parliamentary Caucus on Tuberculosis said, “Lack of awareness about tuberculosis is one of the obstacles in eradicating this disease. Involvement of community clinics as well as the general public to increase TB awareness and detection rates and reduce risk is essential and requires immediate political commitmentThe death rate from tuberculosis has decreased in recent times. In 2015, where there were more than 70 thousand deaths, now it has come down to 42 thousand. All hospitals in Bangladesh have TB testing equipment. Though there is stigma regarding TB in the country, change is imminent. People are now going to medical centers avoiding superstitions. 90 percent TB affected people recover with treatment. We want people to come for treatment. All arrangements are in place to treat them.”
Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is an ancient and deadly infectious disease. Tuberculosis bacteria can survive in the air for hours and enter the human body through breathing. At one time, the pathogen responsible for tuberculosis had not been discovered, and there were no drugs available to cure it. During that era, it was often said, ‘He who has good deeds has no defense.’
The conventional wisdom of the past was true at the time but now the tuberculosis pathogen has been discovered. Highly effective drugs have also been discovered, there are treatments for the disease, and we have a more clear understanding of tuberculosis.
Even 30 years ago, treatment for tuberculosis was a long term one. Currently, tuberculosis is completely curable with only 6 months of treatment in most cases, yet tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of death in developing countries like Bangladesh.
The problem is particularly acute with multi-drug-resistant TB. The disease is transmitted very quickly in overcrowded environments, . which is why the prevalence of tuberculosis is higher in institutions such as hostels, barracks, jails and among the poor population.
According to the National Tuberculosis Control Program (NTP) data, an average of 978 people are infected with tuberculosis every day. At least 375,000 people in Bangladesh developedtuberculosis (221 cases per 1 lakh) and 42,000 people died of TB during 2021. ‘Multi-drug’ resistance occurred in at least 4,500 TB patients in Bangladesh in the same year, which is an alarming issue. Of these, 1.0 percent were among new patients and 4.8 percent were among previously treated patients.
Bangladesh is the first country in Southeast Asia to introduce short-term drug-resistant TB treatment. Bangladesh has made visible progress in TB control, but major challenges remain. 18percent of TB patients are still undiagnosed. We need to put more effort to control TB in urban areas as cities are a melting pot of people from all walks of life. Md. Anwar Hossain Howladar, Secretary, Health Services Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said, “One of the big problems of tuberculosis is the tendency to hide the disease. People with TB tend to face problems at their workplace, and in society due to the stigma associated with the disease. Tuberculosis is compounded and easily treated. This message should tell us where this service is available. In Bangladesh, the number of tuberculosis patients is increasing in cities compared to villages.. Undiagnosed/missing cases lead to increased disease transmission. Therefore, it is important to identify missing cases and bring them under treatment..”