Coronavirus infection can make patients more susceptible to active tuberculosis
New Delhi/IBNS: Covid-19 can make a person more vulnerable to active tuberculosis as it is an "opportunistic infection like Black Fungus", according to Union Health Ministry.
However, there is no data available currently to suggest the cases of tuberculosis have risen amid the pandemic.
The Union Health ministry said that there was a decrease of nearly 25 per cent in tuberculosis cases in 2020 due to Covid related restrictions.
The Union Health Ministry, in a statement, noted that some media reports have alleged that a sudden rise in TB cases have been noticed among patients infected with COVID-19 recently.
"It is clarified that tuberculosis screening for all COVID-19 patients and COVID-19 screening for all diagnosed TB patients has been recommended by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare," it said.
However, the ministry emphasised that SARS-CoV-2 infection can make an individual more susceptible to developing active TB disease, as it is an "opportunistic infection like black fungus".
Though there is not enough evidence to suggest that there has been an increase in tuberculosis cases due to coronavirus infection, the states and union territories had been asked to amp up the efforts for better surveillance and finding of TB and COVID-19 cases as early as August 2020.
The health ministry has also issued multiple advisories and guidance reiterating the need for bi-directional screening of TB-COVID and TB-ILI/SARI.
"Due to the impact of COVID-related restrictions, case notifications for TB had decreased by about 25 per cent in 2020 but special efforts are being made to mitigate this impact through intensified case finding in OPD settings as well as through active case finding campaigns in the community by all states."
The dual morbidity of tuberculosis and COVID-19 can be further highlighted through the fact that both diseases are known to be infectious and primarily attack the lungs, presenting similar symptoms of cough, fever and difficulty in breathing. But TB has a longer incubation period and a slower onset of disease, the health ministry said.
"Furthermore, TB bacilli can be present in humans in a dormant state and has the potential to start multiplying when the individual's immunity is compromised for any reason.
"The same is applicable in a post-Covid scenario when an individual may develop decreased immunity due to the virus itself or due to the treatment, especially immune-suppressants like steroids," the Health Ministry said.