KARACHI – Incidence of default among children acquiring treatment for tuberculosis (TB) at the National Institute of Child Health (NICH) is a serious threat that has to be countered, said doctors on Monday.

Medical officers Dr Asif Ali Khan and Dr Rahila Batool actively involved in TB treatment programme supported by SADA Foundation at NICH said the tendency among parents to discontinue the treatment had enhanced the incidence of relapse among many of these child patients, from interior Sindh and other remote areas.

"The TB cure rate is otherwise more than 60 per cent at the NICH," said Dr Rahila.

She mentioned that 5,209 children aged between two and 15 years had been treated for TB since 2008 at the NICH while presently 420 were under-treatment. "Major problem is the inability of the parents to continue with the treatment despite the fact that it is provided absolutely free of cost to the child patients," said Dr Asif Ali Khan. "These are parents who come to NICH from far way places and cannot afford to stay in the city for long," he said.

In reply to a question, he said that poverty, poor immunity coupled with little care towards hygienic conditions is the major cause of TB among children in the country.

To another query, he said poor compliance is also a major complaint among parents belonging to Karachi as often they develop a false sense of recovery among their children suffering from TB.

"Medication does help improve the condition of the child patients, however, what parents and care takers need to understand is that the course duration of therapy has to be completed and drug regimen strictly followed," said Dr Asif.

The tendency to discontinue treatment, he warned is also leading to risk of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB among children. It is not only difficult to treat but also fatal for the young patients with already compromised immunity, said the doctor.

He mentioned that child TB patients are also reporting with serious cases as while 58 per cent reported with pulmonary TB, 7 per cent are registered with brain TB, 9 per cent with bone TB, 9 per cent with abdomen TB, 2 per cent with skin TB and 15 per cent with lymph-node.

SADA Foundation head Fauzia Siddiqui said session has been organised to commemorate World TB Day, by the NGO, engaged in supporting and sponsoring TB treatment among needy patients. She on the occasion also distributed fruits and gift packs among children suffering from TB.