Although Bhutan is low tuberculosis (TB) burden country in the South-East Asia Region, TB is still considered a priority public health problem in the country

TB is mostly prevalent among the productive age group of 15 – 44 years.

According to a press release from the health ministry, the number of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases has been increasing despite having made progress in the TB case detection rate and achieving high treatment success rate of more than 90 percent.

MDR-TB cases in the country increased from only six in 2005 to 55 in 2016, while TB cases has decreased to 1,145 in 2016 from 1,328 in 2010, according to health officials.

In 2017, there were 881 TB cases, 60 MDR-TB patients and five TB-HIV co-infected cases, of which 52 percent were males among all TB cases.

MDR-TB is caused due to partial or irregular TB treatment, non-completion of the full course of TB treatment, no direct observed treatment, side effects of the medicines and social or economic barriers. It is also caused if the person is HIV infected, has diabetes, is under-nourished, those abusing substances and psychiatric conditions.

The World TB Day is observed on March 24 every year with the aim to create awareness, inform and educate the general public on TB.

This year, the day will be observed at College of Science and Technology in Phuentsholing with the theme: “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-Free World.”

“Accordingly, our emphasis will focus on seeking greater collaboration with all stakeholders such as government, non-government, civil society organisations, developmental partners and community at large to fight TB with leaders across all levels,” the press release states.

TB remains one of the major public health problems globally, regionally and nationally. Last year, TB was reported to be one of the top nine causes of death worldwide and leading cause of death from a single infectious agent.

About 34 medical specialist and medical doctors from district hospitals in the country attended a training on the shorter regimen of MDR-TB treatment in Paro in October last year.

The training was conducted to sensitise and study on the 2016 WHO recommended guidelines of shorter regimen MDR-TB treatment.

An official with the National TB Control Programme said a guideline on the shorter regimen has been finalized and it will be launched during the observation of the World TB Day today.

“The programme is expected to introduce the shorter regimen next month,” the official said. With this shorter regimen, the duration of MDR-TB treatment will be shortened from 20 months to 9 – 11 months.

Meanwhile, member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region, on March 14 in New Delhi, committed to further intensify efforts to ensure rapid and concrete progress to end TB by 2030.

Dechen Tshomo