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ISLAMABAD: Even though Pakistan has increased efforts to eradicate tuberculosis (TB) as soon as possible, over 150,000 cases are still not reported across the country every year.

“We need more research into TB and we also need to bridge the gap between the number of reported and estimated cases across the country,” National TB Program Chief Research Officer Dr Razia Fatima told Dawn on Thursday.

She said around 100,000 TB cases were being reported every year till 2001 and that number has increased to around 360,000 a year.

“However, the estimated number of TB cases is over 500,000. TB, HIV and malaria control programmes have been merged and there is therefore increased need for research based intervention,” she said.

Dr Fatima, who has participated in some 40 research studies, said that when she was working as a medical doctor in a basic health unit in a rural part of Rawalpindi in 2002, three or four people would come to the heath centre with TB symptoms but they were missed because doctors did not have the tools to diagnose the illness.

“Now, because of the support of the Global Fund, it has been possible to diagnose TB patients but that support is only for three years. We need to ensure local funding for the program so the disease can be eradicated,” she added.

Dr Fatima said the global target is to eradicate TB by 2035 and that a number of strategies need to be adopted to find missed cases. Pakistan is has the fifth most TB patients in the world, she said.

“Private hospitals need to be made part of the effort. Steps are being taken to ensure all cases diagnosed at hospitals are shared with the National TB Control Program,” she said, adding that lady health workers should also be involved in the efforts to eradicate the disease as they visit people’s homes.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018