The liquor ban came into force in Bihar in April this year. The ban, however, had an unintended effect―it has hit tuberculosis diagnostic facilities in the state.
According to the Union health ministry, the shortage of alcohol and spirit has affected the procedure of diagnosing TB in the state as laboratories are finding it difficult to procure alcohol. This has hit the goals of the government's Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP).
Post the ban, laboratories are finding it difficult to conduct sputum smear microscopy―a common test used to detect the disease. Smear microscopy is a highly sensitive test for detecting TB, and one of the most efficient tools to identify the disease.
“The reagents required for smear microscopy (Ziehl-Neelsen and fluorescent staining) include absolute alcohol. Spirit is also needed for the lamps used for making smears. Alcohol is also required for cleaning plungers used in the CBNAAT (test for diagnosing TB in HIV patients) as part of the monthly maintenance. Freshly prepared 70 per cent alcohol is also required at all levels for surface disinfection,” Dr Jagdish Prasad, director general of Health Services told THE WEEK.
Prasad said that the ministry had written a letter to the state health department to make a special exemption for procuring alcohol and spirit for uninterrupted diagnostic services under the RNTCP. A copy of the letter is with THE WEEK.
The development is important because of India's goal to eliminate TB by the year 2025. India has the world’s highest TB burden―in 2015, 2.8 million people fell ill with TB and 480,000 people died from it.
According to the latest Out of Step report (2017) on tuberculosis in 29 countries, in India, the gap between estimated TB patients and those detected with the disease is 41 per cent.