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COVID-19 And Tuberculosis: Can TB Increase COVID Risk?

The link between Covid-19 and tuberculosis (TB) were initially less explored during the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, with several researchers stating that it has been a neglected paradigm [1].

Being a respiratory illness, Covid-19 and tuberculosis primarily affects the lungs and have similar symptoms such as fever, cough, chest congestion and difficulty in breathing. Tuberculosis is one of the common health issues in India with about half of the diagnosed cases under the age of 30 [2].

Reports state that this pandemic has caused new challenges for those suffering from TB across India [3]. Individuals with TB are already at the risk of contracting the disease due to the reduced immunity levels, and the complications that may be caused by contracting Covid-19 can be deadly [4].


COVID-19 And Tuberculosis

According to reports, during past coronavirus pandemics of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, coinfection (the simultaneous infection of a host by multiple pathogen species) of TB was seen [5]. Currently, though the Covid-19 infection in TB patients remains limited, it has been reported that people ill with both TB and Covid-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes.

An exploration of the status of TB and Covid-19 gathered the following findings:

• A study pointed out that many people with a history of TB had developed Covid-19
• Another group of people with TB developed other respiratory illness during treatment.
• There is an increased risk of disease transmission from patients to caregivers.
• A lack of protective measures in handling patients with TB has contributed towards the spread of the respiratory illness [6].
• Covid-19 infection rates and severity could be higher in patients with active and latent TB infection [7].
• Covid-19 co-infection in TB patients was found to accelerate the disease course leading to death in few of them.
• Immunity to TB in developing countries might be the leading reason for fewer cases of Covid-19 [8].

Several health experts pointed out the limited attention on the link between Covid-19 and tuberculosis and asserted that although there are multi-faceted approaches in place to deal with the pandemic, there is an urgent need to enhance the attention on Covid-19 and prevent the missing potential suspects of TB - as there have been a lot of cases where people with TB were not given the right Covid-19 care with the symptoms being classified as TB symptoms [9][10].


Sania Mirza To Address Tuberculosis And COVID-19 In A New Digital Mini-Series

MTV Nishedh Alone Together, a new web series will focus on raising awareness about TB in India among young people who represent just under 40 per cent of all new TB cases. The debut of astute and adept sportswoman Sania Mirza, the web series aims to shine a light on the importance of seeking proper diagnosis and care, especially amidst the Covid-19 pandemic [11].

"TB continues to be one of the most chronic health issues in our country. With about half of the diagnosed cases under the age of 30, there is an urgent need to tackle fallacies around it and drive a perception change. There are always risks of Tuberculosis. The risk has been increased by the corona epidemic. The fight to curb TB is more difficult now than ever and that's what prompted me to play a role in it. I hope my presence helps in some way to collectively fight the TB and bring about a positive change," said Sania Mirza on her role in the informative series.


WHO On COVID-19 And Tuberculosis

The World Health Organization has advised that TB patients should take precautions as advised by health authorities to be protected from Covid-19 and should continue their TB treatment as prescribed.

WHO Global TB Programme has developed an information note to assist health authorities in doing so. For prevention, proper measures should be implemented to limit the transmission of TB and Covid-19 in health care facilities, as well as crowded areas [12]. It was also added that respiratory physicians, pulmonology staff of all grades, TB specialists and health workers at the primary health care level can help with patients with pulmonary complications of COVID-19.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Are people with tuberculosis likely to be at increased risk of COVID-19 infection, illness, and death?

Ans: Older age, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are linked with more severe COVID-19 and are also risk factors for poor outcomes in TB. Both diseases primarily attack the lungs and due to the suppressed immunity, yes, people with TB are at an increased risk of contracting the respiratory illness.

Q. Do COVID-19 and tuberculosis spread in the same way?

Ans: While both TB and COVID-19 spread by close contact between people the exact mode of transmission differs.

Q. Can tuberculosis and COVID-19 be tested on the same type of specimen?

Ans: The diagnostic methods for TB and COVID-19 are quite distinct and commonly require different specimens.

Q. Is tuberculosis treatment different in people who have both TB and COVID-19?

Ans: In most cases, TB treatment is not different in people with or without Covid-19 infection.

Read more about: covid 19 coronavirus tuberculosis
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