Scientists from the University, in partnership with the Respiratory Research Network of India; have reported results from a study of more than 2000 Indian patients with evidence of permanent lung damage. Researchers have found that more than 1/3 of patients who successfully cured of Tuberculosis with antibiotics developed permanent lung damage which; in the worst cases, results in large holes in the lungs called cavities and widening of the airways called bronchiectasis.

TB survivors and patients with a history of severe infections such as childhood pneumonia; made up the majority of patients with lung damage in India. The research suggested that these infections left a legacy of daily cough; further chest infections and poor quality of life. Patients required further hospitalisations for treatment of their lung conditions in nearly 40 % of cases. Lung function testing found that patients with post-TB lung damage; had lost approximately 40 % of their lung capacity; leaving many patients with persistent breathlessness.

Severity of their lung damage

However, the study carried out by scientists at Dundee; working alongside doctors in hospitals and medical centres across India. They recruited 2,195 patients with established bronchiectasis from 14 Indian states to take part in the study. Patients provided a detailed medical history and CT; and lung function results assessed to evaluate the severity of their lung damage.

Professor James Chalmers, GSK/British Lung Foundation Professor of Respiratory Research at the University and lead author of the study; said, “This study calls urgent attention to the problem of Post-TB lung damage worldwide. TB is a curable condition with antibiotics; and great steps forward have made towards eliminating TB. “But this study is a wakeup call because even if they manage to eliminate all TB worldwide tomorrow,  going to be left with a legacy of chronic lung damage and bronchiectasis; which will require better recognition and better treatment.”

When patients from India then compare to patients; with the same lung damage in Europe and the United States, lung damage found to be more severe, lung function worse; and patients hospitalised for severe infections. Recommend treatment for these patients such as inhalers; physiotherapy and antibiotic treatment for infections rarely provided.

Tuberculosis cases worldwide

According to the World Health Organisation’s Global TB Report 2018; an estimated 2.8 million people have contracted TB in India, which represents one quarter of all TB cases worldwide. The Indian Government has pledged to eradicate TB by 2025; however this study warns that the TB epidemic could have lasting consequences for the treatment of lung conditions in India and across the globe.

Evidence based treatments like physiotherapy exercises; and antibiotics inexpensive treatments which are proven to improve quality of life and reduce lung infections, but available to less than 50 % of Indian patients. Professor Chalmers added, “The lung damage we observed in patients in India, not just those with TB but also those with other previous severe infections like pneumonia; very severe lungs that described by their doctors as “destroyed”.