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Fingerprinting helps keep spread of TB in India in check

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 27th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Tuberculosis or TB is a highly contagious respiratory illness that has recently sprung into new lethal life in developing nations. It is a major health concern in West Africa and Southeast Asia. It is an ongoing problem in India, due to that nation's densely populated areas. In order to make sure that TB patients get their recommended medication, health official have begun fingerprinting those afflicted.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Two million people in India are diagnosed with tuberculosis annually. Making sure patients complete treatment is crucial as stopping can cause the lung infection to morph into a deadlier version called multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), which is far more difficult and costly to treat.
 
"MDR-TB is the next plague that has the potential to wipe out millions," Operation Asha founder Dr. Shelly Batra says. India is estimated to be home to 100,000 such cases, but Batra fears that the number is much higher, with thousands of people undiagnosed.

"If we don't accept it now and we don't act now by preventing drug resistance, we are going to be in very big trouble."

Batra is using biometric technology to ensure TB patients are completing their drug regimen. Her group has centers in nearly every corner of the city, where the fingerprints of patients and counselors are recorded as proof of interaction. Those who do not show up to take their medication are sent reminders and tracked down.
 
The monitoring system has already made a difference and cut the default rate in half.
 
"We have brought it down to three percent, and with our biometric technology we have brought it down to below 1.5 percent, which I believe is a huge savings," Batra says. "MDR-TB is not just human misery; it is a huge economic loss to the patient, to the country."

With centers in 3,000 Indian and Cambodian slums and villages, Operation Asha hopes its grass-roots effort, aided by technology, will help stem the tide of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis.
 
New Delhi resident Vishnu Maya has already noticed a difference in her health after a few weeks of treatment for the disease.
 
"I feel better. I have been feeling better for the last two to three days," she says. "I am not in a lot of pain right now."

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