India accounted for the greatest increase in multi-drug resistance Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) with an estimated 64,000 new cases in 2012.
MDR-TB can occur as a primary infection or develop during a patient’s treatment. But experts say drug-resistance is a man-made problem. “It is powerful sign of system failures,” says Madhukar Pai of McGill International TB Centre. Treatment is expensive with greater risks of side effects and lasts up to two years.
Pai says incorrect regimens, poor quality drugs, lack of treatment adherence, and inadequate testing of drug-susceptibility leads to drug resistance. There are reports of patients totally resistant to all existing drugs.
The drug-resistant strain of TB complicates India's battle against the disease. Two people die of TB every three minutes in India, which accounts for 26 percent of the cases globally.
The World Health Organisation estimates that four-fifths of drug resistance cases worldwide are still undetected. Government health officials told Al Jazeera increase in MDR-TB cases was because of better diagnostics.
TB is an opportunistic disease and HIV patients are more susceptible, says Akke Boere, India director of Medicins Sans Frontieres. “The HIV patients are already taking drugs and treatment for MDR-TB is long and includes very strong drugs.”