Study Reveals High TB Risk Among Prisoners in India

According to a recent study published in the Lancet Public Health journal, prisoners in India are at a significantly higher risk of developing tuberculosis (TB) compared to the general population. The international research team analyzed data from 193 countries between 2000 and 2019 to estimate the rate of TB among incarcerated individuals, providing valuable insights into the issue.

The study found that in India, the incidence of TB among prisoners was 1,076 cases per 100,000 individuals, whereas the country’s general population had an incidence rate of 210 cases per 100,000 individuals in 2021, according to the World Health Organization’s Global TB Report.

Globally, people in prisons face nearly 10 times the risk of developing tuberculosis compared to the general population. In 2019 alone, approximately 125,105 prisoners out of a total of 11 million developed TB, resulting in a rate of 1,148 cases per 100,000 individuals per year. This rate is significantly higher than the global incidence rate of 127 cases per 100,000 individuals per year.

The study also revealed a low case detection rate of just 53% for all TB cases in prisons worldwide. Additionally, the researchers found a strong correlation between country-level TB incidence rates and prison overcrowding, suggesting that reducing the number of people in detention could be an effective public health strategy to combat TB in prisons.

Certain regions showed particularly high incidence rates. In the African region, the rate of TB among incarcerated individuals was 2,242 cases per 100,000 people per year, nearly double the global estimate. Central and South America, within the Americas region, had the largest absolute number of TB cases among prisoners, with 30,509 cases.

The study’s findings emphasize the need for improved measures to detect, treat, and prevent TB in prisons. Failure to address this issue adequately not only leads to unnecessary disease and deaths among incarcerated individuals but also contributes to the spread of TB in communities when these individuals are released.

To protect the health of both prisoners and communities, greater focus and resources are required to address the TB epidemic in prisons. Efforts are underway to update global guidelines on managing and reducing TB in prisons, as the current guidelines were last revised in 2000.

This study sheds light on the urgent need to address TB in prisons and underscores the significant number of undiagnosed cases in this population. By raising awareness and spurring action, it is hoped that stakeholders will prioritize this neglected issue and implement effective interventions to combat the spread of tuberculosis in prisons.

TB, an airborne infectious disease caused by bacteria, primarily affects the lungs. It spreads when infected individuals cough, sneeze, or spit. The disease is preventable and curable; however, in 2021, an estimated 10.6 million people worldwide fell ill with TB, and 1.6 million died from the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

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