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KARACHI: The Indus Health Network (IHN) opened a major laboratory in Korangi on Thursday with an objective to improve its capacity to make early diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB).

Provincial Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho inaugurated the new Biosafety L-III Laboratory.

Others present on the occasion were Dr Abdul Bari Khan, Dr Shamvil Ashraf, members of the board of directors and heads of departments associated with the IHN.

Highlighting IHN’s efforts for TB treatment, a medical expert at the event said that initially the network piloted and introduced community-based treatment of multidrug resistant (MDR) TB in 2007. Prior to this, patients diagnosed with MDR-TB were offered treatment under inpatient care, seriously stretching capacity in the health sector.

Mandatory inpatient treatment, they said, also separated patients from their families, resulting in poor treatment adherence and completion and high losses to follow-up.

With subsequent rounds of funding from the Global Fund, the IHN started offering DR-TB treatment at its flagship TB Clinic at the Korangi Campus in Karachi and an additional clinic in North Karachi (opened in 2017), as well as managed 10 MDR-TB treatment sites for the governments of Sindh and Balochistan in their remote parts.

About the need for a new laboratory, they said one of the key reasons for TB’s spread was delay in disease diagnosis. The new facility, they added, would enable the IHN to analyse a large number of samples and provide a timely diagnosis, which would help initiate treatment faster.

It is important to mention here that Pakistan has the fifth highest burden of drug-resistant TB in the world with almost 27,000 patients developing this kind of TB each year.

More than 500,000 cases of TB are reported annually in the country while around 35,000 patients die of the disease every year.