Active TB cases to be tested

Pokhara, January 10

Sputum culture, a test that is crucial to identify the bacteria causing active tuberculosis and helping in its treatment through the right prescription, has started in Pokhara now.

The service, to be free of cost, started at the Regional Tuberculosis Centre of Pokhara a week ago. It was possible because of the National Tuberculosis Centre’s cooperation with Global Fund.

NTC director Dr Bikas Lamichhane described the launch of the service as a significant step towards helping meet the long-term goal of stamping out TB from the country. “As we aspire to abolish TB by the year 2050, this step will facilitate us to achieve this goal,” said Dr Lamichhane, expecting support from all quarters of society to achieve this.

He said 4,000 to 5,000 people succumb to TB in the country every year. “Besides, cases of people suffering from active TB, in particular, are increasing year by year,” he said.

Experts say anyone having cough for more than two weeks must consult a doctor. In such cases, they have to undergo two tests of their spittle. If the spittle tests fail to confirm the disease, the concerned patient is advised to opt for a gene expert technology test.

“Gene expert technology service is available in RTC Pokhara; now it has additional service of culture test too, which is good news,” said NTC Pokhara Acting Regional Director Dr Narayan Ojha, adding that it takes at least eight weeks for a patient to get the sputum culture test of the spittle.

According to Dr Ojha, earlier 30 to 35 spittle samples used to be sent to the Capital-based NTC for sputum culture test from Pokhara.

While Western Regional Health Director Dr Taranath Poudel expressed concern about the disease getting worse as patients neglect completing the full course of treatment, Manipal Medical College Professor Dr A L Sharma described the onset of sputum culture test service as positive.

Nepal TB Prevention Organisation Kaski Chairperson Keshavraj Bhandari asked the stakeholders to make sure that the service doesn’t get discontinue later as in the past.

According to data with the Western Regional Tuberculosis Centre, some 5,635 TB patients were found in the entire western region in the fiscal of 2016/16. The number stood at 6,295 in the previous fiscal. “Though data shows the disease is decreasing, we can’t accept this as positive as there are many others who are treated at private health facilities,” argued Dr Ojha.