Prohibition in Bihar has affected Tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis as it has become difficult for the laboratories in the state to procure alcohol, needed for the procedure of diagnosing TB (including Smear Microscopy that makes use of absolute alcohol reagents).
Consequently, it has taken a toll on the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) of the government that aims to eliminate TB in the country by the year 2025.
The scarcity of alcohol required for TB diagnosis has prompted Dr (Prof) Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India to write a letter to the Principal Secretary, Department of Health in Bihar. In his letter dated June 29, 2017, the Union Health Ministry seeks an exemption for procuring and using alcohol and spirit for TB tests so that there is uninterrupted diagnostic service.
Dr Prasad stated that “with the alcohol ban imposed in Bihar, the laboratories are facing difficulty in procuring alcohol and this has affected the diagnosis of tuberculosis in the state”.
He further added, “The reagents required for smear microscopy (Ziehl-Neelsen and Fluorescent Staining) include absolute alcohol. Spirit is also needed for the lamps used for making smears. Alcohol is also required for cleaning plungers used in the CBNAAT (test for diagnosing TB in HIV patients) as part of the monthly maintenance. Freshly prepared 70 per cent alcohol is also required at all levels for surface disinfection”. Hence, the centre seeks special exemption for procuring and using liquor needed for diagnostic services.
The Director General of Health Services also said, “in view of the above and in public interest, special exemption for procuring and using alcohol and spirit for uninterrupted diagnostic services under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) is required”.
It may be mentioned that the Bihar government has completely banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in the state since April 5, 2016.