THE Department of Health has warned against people who sell their tuberculosis-infected sputum to others for financial gain.
It is believed that those who suffer from the respiratory disease are making a killing by selling the sputum to people who want to access the temporary disability grant from the government.
Sputum or phlegm is saliva mixed with mucus or pus expectorated from the lungs and respiratory passages.
The cover price for the sample is said to be between R50 and R100.
Department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said yesterday that the government had noted with concern reports that there were people who sold their TB-infected sputum to others.
"According to the reports a person who has been diagnosed with TB sells his or her sputum to another person so that the latter can take it to a clinic or hospital under false pretence with a view to qualifying for a disability grant.
"The Department of Health would like to appeal to people who are involved in this unlawful and immoral practice to refrain from doing so," Radebe said.
"The practice inherently distorts the real TB situation in the country and undermines efforts in the fight against the disease," he said.
In the past people who had TB qualified for a social relief grant (disability grant) but the practice was stopped last year.
" The Department of Health, with the Department of Social Development, agreed that people were abusing the policy.
"As the policy stands at the moment TB is not regarded as a disability - it is a curable disease.
"It is only in the MDR and XDR TB cases that an assessment would be made to determine a need for any form of social relief based on an individual's circumstances," Hadebe said.
He appealed to healthcare workers to be vigilant when supervising the collection of sputum so that any wrongdoing in TB testing and treatment can be corrected.
South Africa is ranked number four among countries worst affected by TB.