Sep 11, 2011

Tuberculosis and India

Tuberculosis is also the leading cause of death among people between fifteen and forty-five—the most productive age group in any country and the key to India’s prospects for continued economic growth.
Second time I read this article, very well written.
For centuries, tuberculosis has been the source of misguided stereotypes, including the association of consumption with creativity and brilliance. “Doctors suspect that tuberculosis develops genius,’’ a 1940 article in Time pointed out, “because 1) apprehension of death inspires a burning awareness of life’s beauty, significance, transience, 2) the bacillus breeds restlessness and an intoxicated hypersensitiveness.” Keats, Chekhov, the Brontë sisters, and George Orwell—who was born not far from Patna, where his father managed the regional opium trade—all died of the disease. 
Since late 2009, the hospital has had one unique asset: a piece of equipment called a P.C.R., which can multiply tiny samples of DNA and analyze them. The device is not as fast as the GeneXpert, but it can examine the genetics of virtually any organism, including tuberculosis. The hospital’s machine, which was purchased with money from a government research grant, has never been used. “The hospital has had this for months,’’ Mannan said. “But nobody knows how it works.” We were standing at the door of the virology lab, where the new P.C.R. Cobas TaqMan 48, made by Roche and sold for roughly fifty thousand dollars, was resting on a shelf, still wrapped in its shipping material.

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