Tuberculosis (TB)

The Ayries Society has a proven track record in diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis. Over the past 6 years, 417 patients have successfully completed the six-month treatment programme.

Background

It is estimated that 30% of the world’s population have the latent form of the TB infection. One in ten then go on to develop the active infection which if untreated kills about 50% of its victims. Because under-nutrition greatly increases the risk of contracting tuberculosis, TB is often called a ‘disease of the poor’. Many patients reached by the Society have been undiagnosed for years or even decades. Until recently TB killed 1000 people a day in India.

How is TB diagnosed and treated?

Staff collect sputum smears at TB camps in villages from people who have symptoms. These are analysed by microscopy and if positive the patient is registered with Ayries and the Tamil Nadu Health Authority (so that the free drugs can be obtained) and begins treatment. TB is treated by DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course), which is the name given to the WHO-recommended TB control strategy. DOTS does not just mean the drug regime patients undergo but also the taking of drugs under the direct supervision of healthcare workers, the accurate record keeping of all aspects of the programme and follow-up after a favourable result is achieved. In order to avoid resistance to the antibiotics patients must take their drugs (typically 4 antibiotics simultaneously) regularly during the six-month period. This is why support from Ayries staff, which includes group meetings at the centre, is so important.

Nutrition

It has been well documented that nutritional provision increases the chance of a positive outcome for patients on the DOTS programme: once treatment starts, patients usually experience increased or renewed appetite, and since many patients cannot afford extra food, they can often stop taking drugs. This leads to a raised chance of future drug resistance. Because TB greatly reduces the capacity to work, provision of nutrition for the whole family is most valuable and increases the incentive for patients to remain on the DOTS programme. In turn this reduces the risk of children in the family contracting TB because their nutritional intake improves while the adults are being treated.

The Ayries TB Programme

For the last 5 years, an average of 23 patients have been treated at any one time (between 17 and 28). However, the Trust has been able to purchase scooters for use by the TB specialists on the staff, meaning they can now access a larger area and reach more people. This means staff now work with an average of 33 patients. The Indian Government’s target for DOTS success is 85%. Ayries have a success rate of around 98 to 99%.

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