Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis spreading in children: NICH director

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KARACHI – Irrational medication and promiscuity to adults suffering from tuberculosis (TB) have caused multi-drug resistant (MDR) infections among children referred to the National Institute of Child Health (NICH). This was disclosed by NICH Executive Director Prof Syed Jamal Raza, while addressing a session organised by Sada Welfare Foundation on Thursday.
“A vast majority of the 4,880 TB patients aged between six months to 15 years, registered at the NICH during 2003 to 2011, contracted the disease from adult patients,” said Raza. He said a significant number of cases were also consequent to over-treatment of conditions like cough and fever.
“Fever that persisted for a week and recurrent cough caused due to asthma or allergy was treated as TB, causing resistance against drugs while resulting in MDR strains among the very young patients,” said the senior child specialist. Addressing the programme to mark the World Tuberculosis Day, attended by TB patients and their parents, Raza said that the recovery rate is high in the children brought to the NICH, however, the loss of time and inconvenience caused to kids and their parents can be avoided through proper preventive measures.
“It is high time that people in general as well as medical community ensure that adult TB patients strictly comply and complete their course of medication,” he said, adding that poor compliance not only leads to drug resistance in the patient, but also among the children living around them.
“What is extremely dreadful is the fact that children contract MDR strains of the infectious disease that is often extremely difficult to be treated,” elaborated the NICH director. In a scenario when many of the areas in the country lack provision for foolproof diagnostics besides proper diagnosis, there is a need for judicious use of drugs among children, he added.
“There are 300,000 adult TB patients in the country with 13 percent of them comprising children,” he said, adding that NICH often receives children with TB that has already affected their organs. SWF Coordinator Fauzia Siddiqui said that 1,080 children were currently under TB treatment at the NICH and the neonatal unit at the hospital was being fully-supported by the foundation.
She said the NGO was fully committed towards the cause of ‘healthy children’ and therefore paying equal attention towards raising public awareness to prevent diseases. Expressing concern that TB has taken its toll on children, Sindh Information Technology Minister Raza Haroon said that public representatives in coordination with the public will take up the cause of TB-Free Pakistan and ensure that there may not be any children suffering from TB in the country by next year.
MNA Khushbakht Shujaat and Adviser to Sindh Governor Fatima Surraiya Bajia also expressed support with the cause and appreciated NGOs like SWF for taking up projects that directly benefit the under-privileged sections of the society.