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Tuberculosis : A Continuing Horror Story

A persistent disease like TB can only be tackled through decisive action. Short term approach involves social media awareness campaigns while long term approach involves proper implementation of already existing programmes updated with latest technology and vaccine research.

Tuberculosis as a disease has been tormenting humans from time immemorial. From the great kings to lowly peasants, no one is safe from its hands. Like in horror movies , the scariest monsters are not the ones that kill violently or spew blood and gore everywhere but the ones that keep coming back, again and again, every time you believed you had finally put an end to the menace. Tuberculosis comes under the second type of horror. It's less blood and gore these days, but it persists no matter what we throw at it and keeps coming at us, again and again.

TB is the 13th leading cause of death in the world as well as the second most infectious cause of death after Covid 19.[1] The fact that the four drugs used to treat TB: isoniazide (1951), pyrazinamide (1952), ethambutol (1961), and rifampin (1966) all had been invented in the 50s and 60s and still after all these years we have not yet conquered this disease is quite disconcerting. Also, every time a new drug is invented, a new resistant TB comes to fight it. We even have 4 generations of Anti TB drugs just because TB wouldn't back down. What makes TB so unbeatable is mainly the requirement of a long course of treatment and the human tendency to not follow through. Along with its ability to mutate and get resistant makes it a formidable enemy. It is true that we have indeed come a long way, from days of considering TB to be a vampire curse and no longer treating TB with just Lana, Letto, Latte (warmth, rest, and good food) but the persistence of TB as the white plague for all

these millennia has led to many myths and misbeliefs about this age-old disease that still exists today. Some people still think it is a hopeless fatal disease with no cure and others believe that it is okay to skip the treatment once the symptoms subside. It is misconceptions like these that make TB more dangerous than it should be.

The first step in solving a problem is accepting that there is a problem. . In this era of viral campaigns and Twitter hashtags the best way to bring traction to this TB menace is by creating viral marketing campaigns on social media rather than age-old essay competitions and poster presentations.

An ideal example regarding this is the YouTuber-driven community campaigns like TEAM TREES [2] and TEAM SEAS [3], where the world's top YouTubers along with their millions of supporters came together to plant 20 million trees and clean 14,000 tonnes of sea waste through participation and donations. They achieved more in a year than most awareness campaigns about climate change ever did. The advantage of social media influencers over world leaders is that they are community-driven and are not affected by vested interests and political lobbying. Also, many of them have a philanthropic mindset or at least pretends so and thus would be more than willing to support a good social cause. The disadvantage is that campaigns will be short-lived like most things social media-based. So to make the most of such opportunities, multiple mega campaigns should be conducted to create awareness and impact and short-term goals for TB management must be targeted.

And the best long term way to tackle TB as a problem is to ensure that the complete course of treatment is taken by everyone infected through proper implementation of the already existing TB programs and updating them with modern advancements in the web and IT. Also a vaccine for TB as such is not impossible. COVID 19 Pandemic has shown us what we can achieve in such a short period, when the need arises and when we pool our resources together. A Universal TB vaccine could very well put an end to the era of TB. If we can produce 20+ covid vaccines in a span of 2 yrs for COVID 19 ,then we can get a decent enough TB vaccine too if we try hard enough.

We are luckily at a point in history where we can eliminate TB if we all just work together and just persevere a little more and beating TB would ultimately be a testament to humanity’s tenacity and ability to cooperate in times of need as much as our technological and pharmacological superiority as a generation.





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