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How Biotechnology is crusading TB control in India

By: Dr. Pavan Asalapuram , co-founder, EMPE Diagnostics

Did you know that India accounts for about 27% of the tuberculosis global burden? According to the annual report on TB in India 2022, India accounted for 27 per cent of the tuberculosis global burden with more than 20 lakh TB cases being reported in the country in 2021. While a total of 1.6 million people died of TB in 2021 worldwide, there was an increase of 19% in TB patients in 2021 compared to 2020. Though the fight against tuberculosis in India is ongoing for many years with numerous approaches being used to control the spread of the disease, Biotechnology emerged as a game-changer to combat one of the oldest and deadliest diseases known to mankind.

However, despite significant advancements in medicine and public health, TB still remains a major public health challenge, particularly in low-income countries. In order to fight against this highly contagious disease and uproot the underlying causes of the disease, the government of India has stepped up their efforts by launching the ‘Dare2eraD TB’ campaign- data-driven research to eradicate TB in the year 2022 while citing the goal to achieve TB Mukt Bharat by 2025. The launch of Dare2eraD TB is a significant step towards eradicating TB in India. By leveraging the latest scientific tools and technologies, the program aims to develop innovative approaches for TB control and management. “Dare2eraD TB” will be an umbrella TB program of the Department of Biotechnology and will comprise several key initiatives such as InTGS – Indian Tuberculosis Genomic Surveillance Consortium, InTBK Hub- Indian TB Knowledge Hub- Webinar Series and Host Directed therapies against TB and developing an evidence-based regimen for treating extra-pulmonary Tuberculosis.

All of these initiatives are the result of the advancement of biotechnology in the field of medicine. From improving the diagnosis, and treatment and boosting the prevention of the disease through various innovations and inventions, the role of biotechnology has proven crucial in controlling TB in India. Let’s delve into the importance of biotechnology in reducing TB from the lives of common people.

How Biotechnology is uprooting TB from India?

Improved diagnostic tools: One of the most significant contributions of biotechnology to TB control in India has been the development of improved diagnostic tools. If an accurate and timely diagnosis is provided to patients, tuberculosis can be controlled in a more effective and precise manner. And with improved diagnostic tools, biotechnology has efficiently filled this gap and has helped to develop faster and more accurate diagnostic tests for TB. Traditional diagnostic methods for TB, such as sputum smear microscopy, have limited sensitivity and specificity. However, biotechnology-based diagnostic tests, such as mfloDxTM MDR-TB from EMPE Diagnostics, will revolutionize TB diagnosis in India. The mfloDxTM MDR-TB test can detect TB bacteria and drug resistance more accurately and quickly than traditional methods, allowing for precision diagnosis and prompt initiation of personalized treatment.

Vaccine development: Vaccine development is another area where biotechnology is playing a significant role in TB control in India. The BCG vaccine, which is currently used to prevent TB, is only partially effective, especially in adults. However, biotechnology-based approaches to vaccine development, such as recombinant DNA technology, have shown promise in the development of new TB vaccines. These vaccines target specific TB antigens, which could improve vaccine efficacy and provide broader protection against TB. One such vaccine, the VPM1002 vaccine, has shown promising results in clinical trials and is currently being evaluated for widespread use in India.

TB Drug development: Biotechnology is also playing a critical role in TB drug development. The development of new TB drugs is essential to combat drug-resistant TB, which is becoming more prevalent worldwide. Biotechnology-based drug development is an innovative approach that involves using biological systems to develop new drugs. This approach has the potential to accelerate the drug development process, leading to the discovery of new, more effective TB treatments. The current treatment regimen for TB involves taking multiple antibiotics for several months, which can be difficult to tolerate and has a high rate of treatment failure.

Surveillance and monitoring: Surveillance and monitoring are critical for effective TB control in India, and biotechnology is playing a significant role in this area as well. IBiotechnology-based tools, such as whole-genome sequencing, are being used to identify drug-resistant strains of TB and monitor the spread of TB to help public health officials track outbreaks and develop targeted interventions to prevent the spread of the disease.

Conclusion

Despite the promise of biotechnology in TB control, several challenges like the cost of bio-technology-based tests and treatments are existing at present and must be addressed swiftly. If we look at the broader spectrum of biotechnology and its implications in the treatment of TB, it has played a critical role in TB control in India and across the globe. Biotechnology-based diagnostic tests, drug development, and vaccine development are revolutionizing TB control and providing new hope in the fight against this deadly disease. We can accelerate progress towards the goal of TB elimination by continuing to invest in biotechnology-based research and development.

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