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GoI bans use, import of blood test kits for TB

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Almost a year after the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a rare ‘negative’ policy recommendation urging countries to ban the use of serological (blood) test kits for active TB, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India has issued a notification prohibiting the manufacture, sale, distribution, use and import of such serodiagnostic kits.

India as a country has one fifth of the global TB burden, with some estimates putting a total of 9.2 million new cases and 1.7 million deaths every year.

In a notification dated June 7, the Central Government states that “it is satisfied that the use of the serodiagnostic test kits for diagnosis of tuberculosis are giving inconsistent and imprecise results results leading to wrong diagnosis and their use is likely to involve risk to human beings and whereas safer alternatives are available.”

WHO’s recommendation in July last year came after a year of rigorous analysis of evidence by WHO and global experts. Ninety-four studies were evaluated—67 for pulmonary tuberculosis (TB in the lungs) and 27 for extrapulmonary tuberculosis (TB elsewhere in other organs). Overwhelming evidence showed that the blood tests produced an unacceptable level of wrong results—false-positives or false-negatives—relative to tests endorsed by WHO.