My stint with drug resistant TB

We all have heard about Tuberculosis (TB), at some time or the other. From decades, it has continued to haunt our existence. Imagine the state, when my friend was diagnosed with it! The picture that comes to our mind on mentioning this disease, is of a really sick person, coughing all the time, well, my friend was slowly reaching that state and it was devastating. 

She suffered from intermittent fever for over 3months and also developed bouts of cough, which kept on increasing in frequency. With major weight loss, she started looking a very frail of her earlier self. Eyes sunken, bones protruding…..Oh what a dreadful sight she had become! She was diagnosed with TB infection and was put on standard TB treatment. Time flew by, and although she started recovering, it was hardly worth a mention. Soon her condition deteriorated and she landed up again in the hospital, wheezing. This time, they conducted a battery of tests and found out that she had developed resistance to the drugs, she was being treated with. 

The doctors started a different drug therapy, however, she failed to respond to that too……her health slowly sinking. It was a race against time, as it was not clear which drugs to be started next? Which ones would cure her? Will she be cured or not?  To get answers for these questions, we- friends, searched a lot of literature, checked on the internet for some ray of hope. Soon we came across a diagnostic method called whole genome sequencing (WGS), that could give extensive data regarding the pathogen, the drug-resistance and sensitivities, within a very short span of time. 

The tuberculosis bacteria to survive develop certain changes in their genetic material. These changes called as mutations help the bacteria to develop resistance against the antibiotics and survive. This is like “ Survival of the fittest”. Our Dr explained that this technology called whole genome sequencing (WGS) looks at the entire genetic material determines the mutations and indicates which antibiotic will work and which will not work. This sounded like a boon to us. But if this technology was new would it work? Was it being used elsewhere? Did anybody recommend it? These questions still plagued our mind. 

Our Doctor assured us that this technology is being used worldwide and also recommended by the WHO, it is now developed in India by the same scientists who have worked in UK on this problem. 

This sounded promising! We approached Haystackanalytics, working extensively in this field, offering valuable, comprehensive whole genome sequencing  for TB diagnosis and drug resistance detection. WGS conducted, revealed that my friend was prey to extensively drug resistant TB infection. Thanks to the timely intervention, the doctors were able to start the appropriate therapy and save her. 

It is extremely important to get a rapid and complete diagnosis for TB, for starting the appropriate and timely medication, that can save lives!