Vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India has announced they will soon release an ‘adult TB vaccine’.
The jab is expected to help India achieve its goal of eradicating TB by 2025.
What does this mean for Karnataka? The state currently has a huge disease burden from TB, especially in the age group of 15 to 60 years. Though infants are vaccinated with BCG to protect against TB, its efficacy reduces over time.
Data from the health department shows that, since January 2018, Karnataka has had a whopping 3.6 lakh TB cases.
But the actual numbers would be much higher since many private healthcare facilities don’t give data to the government.
“Currently, of the total case numbers we get, only 27% come from private facilities,” says Dr Ansar Ahmed, deputy director of the state’s TB control programme.
This is quite low, considering that a majority of people in Karnataka approach private hospitals for healthcare.
The notified cases are highest in Bengaluru city, accounting for over 17% of the state’s cases. This is attributed to the higher population of the city compared to the districts.
In cases of drug-resistant TB, treatment is more difficult and may need to continue for 1.5 years. In drug-sensitive cases, treatment can be completed in six months. But even in drug-sensitive cases, the annual death rate in the state has fluctuated around 6-7%.
This comes to over 4,500 to 5,500 deaths annually. Added to this would be deaths in the drug-resistant category, wherein death rates are relatively higher. The reasons for these deaths usually are late diagnosis and incomplete treatment, says Dr Ahmed. He says the death rate this year is relatively lower, at 5.5%.
Why adults more affected
When it comes to case numbers, adults are usually more affected because they are more exposed to the virus, says Dr Ahmed.
Data for this year shows that the highest number of cases were in the age group of 31 to 45 years (44%) and 15 to 30 years (around 27%), followed by the 45-60 age group (25%).
“People in this age group travel more for various purposes, and they are more likely to smoke or drink alcohol to relieve stress,” says Dr Ahmed.
Cases were the least among children aged up to 14 years (4%).
People with diabetes or HIV are also more susceptible to catching TB because of lower immunity.
Dr Nagaraja C, director of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, says, “Global studies have shown that the efficacy of BCG vaccine varies as much as 0% to 60% even among children. But it’s still given to infants to reduce complications like meningeal tuberculosis. Adult vaccine may provide some level of protection, though not 100%.”