Whole genome sequencing can likely curb Tuberculosis-linked deaths: Experts

Harnessing the power of next-gen Medtech like genome sequencing, with the government and fraternity’s support, could contribute to helping to achieve a TB Free India by 2025

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Mumbai: In an effort to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of tuberculosis (TB) in the state of Maharashtra, HaystackAnalytics, a Mumbai-based health-tech startup, organized a panel discussion along with leading pulmonologists to step up efforts to end the TB epidemic in India.
The discussion focused on ways to educate the masses on how Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) can emerge as the revolutionary one-stop solution for the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis in India.
Sharing his perspective Dr. Nikhil Sarangdhar, Member Central Committee, TB association of India and Master National Trainer, National TB elimination program, Mumbai, Maharashtra, said, “Since 2019, Mumbai has witnessed an increase in TB diagnosis among those in the 15-36 years of age. However, due to COVID and the pandemic, there was an overall reluctance seen in people to approach healthcare facilities and the stigma associated with respiratory symptoms. In addition, over half of all patients with TB approach the private sector for their initial diagnosis and treatment.”
“It is plausible that economic hardships, diversion of the healthcare workforce to Covid, and difficulty accessing resources without mandatory RT-PCR reports, all contributed to delayed health-seeking, and consequently, delays in treatment initiation, resulting in deaths. Nonetheless, there have been many initiatives taken to mitigate TB in Maharashtra, and recently over 1,000 Indians have adopted nearly 7,000 patients suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) India to provide vocational, diagnostic, and nutritional support for faster recovery. Maharashtra tops the chart with the greatest number of adoptions across the country,” added Sarangdhar.
Veteran pulmonologists present at the event included Dr. Anchit Bhatnagar, Assistant Professor in Terna Speciality  Hospital  & Research Centre, Navi Mumbai, a Consultant Pulmonologist in Ashirwad Hospital, Navi Mumbai, Dr. Pankaj Bang, Consultant Chest Physician, and Intensivist, DNB (Chest), FCCP (USA), Mumbai, Maharashtra, Dr. Vikas Oswal, National NTEP trainer and Chairperson of DR-TB site VI, Shatabdi municipal hospital, Govandi along with Dr. Anirvan Chatterjee, Co-Founder, and CEO of HaystackAnalytics, Mumbai, Maharashtra.
“Considering the diversity and variation in the burden of disease, there is a need for active engagement of non-traditional stakeholders such as corporations, civil society, young people, community-based organizations (CBOs), and community members, all of which can play a critical role in winning the battle against TB. Technology has been used extensively for surveillance, diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of TB in Maharashtra, such one diagnosis we are currently pursuing is HaystackAnalytics’s Whole genome testing which can give us results faster, ensuring patients get the right combination of medicines at the earliest. In the end, it is crucial for everyone to work together towards the mission to eliminate TB from India,” said Dr. Pankaj Bang.
Harnessing the power of next-gen Medtech like genome sequencing, with the government and fraternity’s support, could contribute to helping to achieve a TB Free India by 2025.
Dr. Anirvan Chatterjee, Co-Founder, and CEO of HaystackAnalytics said, “At HaystackAnalytics we aim at innovating and enabling technologies that bridge the gaps and challenges in the current diagnostics ecosystem. Whole Genome sequencing can detect TB and predict DST profiles at a much faster rate, demonstrating the future potential to reduce time-to-diagnosis & appropriate treatment for TB. In light of the rising number of cases in a densely populated metropolis like Mumbai, multidrug-resistant TB rates are alarmingly high. These statistics are driven in part by crowded living conditions, but also partly because, until now, many locals were not aware of the treatment as well as the number of tests that are now available to accurately diagnose and get enough TB patients into treatment. It is crucial that more people are made aware of the catastrophic effects of TB on their health, society, and economy. Starting from the root- identifying people with tuberculosis symptoms and supporting across the care continuum for positive patient outcomes.”
Haystack Analytics is supported by the Department of Science & Technology, Govt of India, healthcare veterans like Dr. Velumani, and private players such as GE Healthcare and Intel India Startup Program.
HaystackAnalytics’ Omega TB, whole-genome sequencing of tuberculosis test utilizing the Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platform for rapid identification of drug resistance in TB patients was recognized as an innovative solution by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in June 2022 at BIRAC’s Biotech Startup Expo 2022 in New Delhi.
The Omega TB test not only identifies the TB species involved & in the first test it helps reduce the time for performing anti-TB drug susceptibility from weeks to just seven to 10 days thus saving crucial time for initiation of evidence-based treatment regimens as well as complementing the TB culture-based tests. It also helps to identify any novel mutations responsible for TB drug resistance which is an added advantage.
As per the India TB report 2022, Data in 2020 showed that of the 1.3 lakh persons (who had Covid) screened for TB, at least 2,163 were detected with the disease. Overall, there have been 14,438 TB deaths in the last two years. About 7,453 persons with TB died in 2021 as against 6,985 who succumbed in 2020.
Detection of TB cases had fallen by nearly 28 percent in 2020 with only 43,464 people identified with the illness as compared to 2019 when a total of 60,597 TB patients were detected in Mumbai.