TB in the UK being spread by Indians? Indian doctors take exception to Lancet's charge on latent TB
By Syed Akbar Hyderabad, April 22: City health experts take strong exception to the medical charge thatIndians harbouring tuberculosis germ in its latent form are responsible for the spread ofTB in the United Kingdom. The UK is regarded as the TB capital of the world and a team ofresearchers based there now blames it on Indians. This is the third serious medical allegation against India by the Lancet, a UK-based peerreviewed medical journal, in the last eight months. Two earlier studies by Lancet havestirred up the medical and health authorities in the country forcing the Indian Councilof Medical Research to take up a comprehensive research on the superbug, wrongly namedNew Delhi Metallo beta lactamase. The present study is on tuberculosis being allegedlyspread by Indians visiting the United Kingdom. "The Lancet team in a way wants all Indians visiting the UK to be screened for latenttuberculosis. Though there are tests to identify latent TB, the results are not alwaysaccurate. If the team prevails on the UK health authorities, then Indians visiting the UKmay be asked to undergo special screening for latent TB, or asked to produce healthcertificates that they are free from TB," said senior microbial scientist Dr Niyaz Ahmed. Tuberculosis is of two types, active and latent. In active TB, the disease is manifestand the infected person is capable of spreading it to others. A person carrying latent TBdoes not show the TB symptoms or infect others. About 15 per cent of people carryinglatent TB bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, develop active TB some time in their life. "The charge is baseless and deliberate attempt to defame India. The Lancet studies havenot conclusively proved that India or Indians are responsible, either in the superbugtheory or now on latent tuberculosis," observes Dr senior biologist Dr Duggaraju SrinivasRao. The Lancet study has targeted people carrying the latent TB bacteria, particularly thosefrom Indian sub-continent, holding them responsible for the spread of the disease in theUK. "Continuing rises in tuberculosis notifications in the UK are attributable to casesin foreign-born immigrants. National guidance for immigrant screening is hampered by alack of data about the prevalence of, and risk factors for, latent tuberculosis infectionin immigrants," Prof Ajit Lalwani and his team pointed out in the latest issue of the Lancet. The Lancet team suggested two "most cost-effective strategies" to screen individuals fromcountries with a tuberculosis incidence of more than 250 cases per 1,00,000, and morethan 150 cases per 1,00,000. India falls under the category of more than 150 TB cases per1 lakh people. "It can be true in theory. But it needs to be closely analysed to generalise and say thatIndians are the main reason for the spread of TB in the UK," argues Dr N Lavanya,infectious diseases expert.