Health Policy

India aims to scrap unreliable TB tests

Following WHO warning, India alerts doctors of unreliable TB tests that may endanger patients’ lives. India’s health ministry warned doctors against using blood tests to detect antibodies to tuberculosis, a technique in common practice in the private health care sector despite evidence that these tests are unreliable and may endanger patients’ lives. The tests are considered unreliable as they lead to unacceptably high levels of false positive and false negative results. The health ministry plans to circulate an advisory against the tests to medical associations across India, the paper said. About 1.5 million patients suspected to be infected by TB take the unreliable test each year. The decision comes in the wake of a scientific review by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which for the first time issued advisory warning countries to abandon use of the TB antibody test. False positive results would mean patients may be treated and become exposed to medications and their risks without reason, while false negative results may lead to patients with TB being denied the treatment they urgently need. The WHO, which had commissioned a rigorous 12-month long analysis of the blood tests for active TB disease, has said that there is “overwhelming evidence” to confirm the earlier observations about the unreliability of the tests.


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