Sunday, July 24, 2011

Negative Blood Test for TB may give False Sense of Security, WHO

There are some blood tests for tuberculosis (TB) available in India. Those said to detect the presence of antibody against TB in the blood of patients suffering from it. But, there are other methods for confirming TB. Doctors are easily swayed away, and go for these tests on their patients, most often after not getting confirmatory report from conventional or available tests to fully authenticate their clinical diagnosis. Probably, fever lasting for several weeks without any credible diagnosis is one of the candidates for this tests, and perhaps a desperate attempt to use the tests.
The pity is that most of these tests are developed in Europe and North America, where those are not approved to be used because they need un-questionable evidence in support of those tests to get approved for sale.
Those gain popularity in other places including India because of several factors, one of those may be the illegal nexus between the doctor and the testing laboratory; and another may be that the doctor wants show his/her recent knowledge and take the pride in prescribing that test.
Another problem is that these tests are often used in the private sector, which is a difficult sector to regulate and as a result there is a wide misuse, WHO knows at least 17 countries where these inaccurate tests are available in the private sector.
Unfortunately, for the first time the WHO gave negative remarks for such type of blood tests for TB. They say that these blood tests can have unacceptable number of false negative or false positive results. In case a person suffering from TB, if given a false negative result from this blood test, he/she is unlikely to get anti-TB treatment. And, we know. what may happen in that case.
In several countries including India, there is no full proof regulatory mechanism for monitoring and approve these tests; as a result these tests flourishing through an illegal nexus. It is perhaps a criminal offense.
TB kills 1.7m people every year, and is the biggest cause of death of people living with HIV.
"We are making a very strong urge to governments to consider that TB is a threat and the use of these ineffective tests is also a threat” says Dr Karen Weyer, WHO.
Will India wake up to the call of WHO to ban these tests and put credible watchdog agency on such type of tests in this medical field, so that unapproved tests should not be done for all time to come.
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