Thursday, April 30, 2009

No threat of swine inluenza in Andhra Pradesh

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 28: Andhra Pradesh has the third largest pig population in the country and yet experts in infectious diseases allay fears of an immediate outbreak of swine flu in the State.
Nabard statistics project pig population in the country at about 16 million. Uttar Pradesh with about 20 lakhs pigs leads the country, followed by Bihar with 14 lakhs pigs. Andhra Pradesh stands third with about 10 lakhs pig population. Pig breeding farms in the State are largely located at Gannavaram, Gopannapalem,
Muktalya, Padavagi, Tirupati and Vishakapatnam.
Though the first ever known case of swine flu was recorded in different parts of the world during 1918, the peninsular India has always been off the radar of this dangerous influenza virus. The fact that swine flu was never reported in Andhra Pradesh or its neighbouring areas in the past 90 years makes health planners
confident that the virus will miss the State this time too.
Virologists caution that any laxity on the part of medical and health authorities will lead to spread of pig flu
in the region, though it has thus far been a safe zone. The threat, however, looms large over Andhra Pradesh since Hyderabad has of late emerged as an aviation hub in South-East Asia.
"There's no need to panic. Andhra Pradesh is safe as far as pig flu is concerned. All we have to do is to take precautionary measures like screening of passengers coming from countries where the disease is endemic.
The problem with the swine flu virus is that it mutates rapidly and there are no known cases of the disease from this region," said Dr Sunit Singh, who heads an infectious diseases research team in the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.
According to Prof Rami Reddy Guntaka of The University of Tennessee, USA, it is possible that those who got infected directly from pigs may be more at risk than human to human transmission. "We do not have the epidemiological data. Very likely it may subside soon in two to three weeks as the summer weather is not
conducive for virus survival. It may return in fall or winter," he cautioned.
He, however, does not rule out the spread of the disease to India during winter. "Since now air travel is so common, it can spread from one country to another, rather very easily. Since it is hot weather in India, it is a
blessing because the virus does not survive long times at 40 degrees C," Prof Rami Reddy added.
According to WHO, there are no vaccines that contain the current swine influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is not known whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. "It is important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virus strain for it to provide maximum
protection to the vaccinated people. We made attempts in the past too. If the situation so warrants, we can develop a vaccine," said Dr MN Khaja, senior scientist and vice-president of Sudarshan Biotech.
The good news, health authorities point out, is most of the previously reported swine influenza cases recovered fully from the disease without requiring medical attention and without antiviral medicines.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Custard apple seeds are natural pesticides: They check pests on plants

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The soft and fleshy Sitaphal is not just for your taste buds. It is useful for plants too in controlling severe pest.
Sitaphal or custard apple has so far found its way into tasty ice creams and milkshakes. And soon it is going to revolutionise the Indian agricultural scenario what with its seeds taking over the role of natural pesticide. Farmers who have used the pesticide prepared from custard apple seeds point out that their yields have gone up considerably without they having to spend much on farm inputs.
Two Hyderabad-based scientific bodies have successfully extracted insect-killing chemicals from the seeds of custard apples. The Sitaphal pesticide is inexpensive, environment-friendly and highly effective in containing a variety of pests on a number of crops.
Research studies carried out by the International Crop Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have shown that acetogenins found in the seeds of custard apple would actually help fight plant pests.
"Seeds make up one-third of the weight of custard apple. Acetogenins are toxic to insects. These biologically active ingredients reduce leaf disc feeding and larval massing of the armyworm, Mythimna separata. The extracts also control stem borer, Chilo partellus. Alcohol extracts were found to be nearly as toxic as nicotine sulfate," says an ICRISAT report.
The seed extracts also showed synergistic activity in combination with neem seed extract. The combination is far more effective than either one used alone. This combination works well on several pests, including Callosobruchus chinensis, Rhizopertha dominica and Musca domestica nebulo.
"I could control the problem of rice leaf hopper on my crop to a great extent. I simply mixed the sitaphal extract with neem oil. I noticed that the lifespan of leaf hopper had reduced. The transmission of rice tungro virus was also checked," observes paddy farmer Mutyala Ramesh, who has been banking on Sitaphal pesticide for the few months.
Sitaphal seeds have been found to control pests including the cabbage aphid Brevicoryne brassicae, the pulse beetle Bruchus chinensis, the green scale Coccus viridis, the cotton stainer Dysdercus keonigii, the hairy caterpillar Euproctis fraternal, the brown plant hopper Nilaparvata lugens, the saw-toothed grain beetle Oryzeaphilus surinamensis, the diamond-back moth Plutella xylostella, the white-backed plant hopper Sogatella furcifera and the tobacco caterpillar Spodoptera litura.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Men exposed to industrial fumes are at risk of losing their reproductive strength

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Men exposed to industrial fumes are at risk of losing their reproductive strength with the quality and count of their sperm being significantly affected.
According to a joint research study by city-based Institute of Genetics, Mahavir Hospital, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and Owaisi Hospital and Research Centre, men exposed to industrial fumes containing nickel and chromium, showed decreased vitality and significantly higher percentage of defects in sperm.
The study, however, found that smoking did not show any effect on semen parameters in industrial workers and welders as also in the control group. Though there was no significant difference in the volume of ejaculated semen of men exposed to fumes and those in the control group, the former had a lower sperm count (almost half), rapid linear progressive motility, and slow progressive motility when compared to control men.
The percentage of normal sperm was also low in the exposed group. They also showed higher percentage of defects in the head and mid-piece of sperm.
Research team member Dr Roya Rozati points out that men exposed to nickel and chromium had a large number of morphologically abnormal spermatozoa in their ejaculates. The levels of these metals in blood was also higher than that of the control group.
"There was a significant positive correlation between the percentage of tail defects and blood nickel and chromium concentration in male welders. Sperm vitality decreased with increasing chromium concentration", Dr Roya told this correspondent.
The study covered 57 employees of an industrial welding plant. The workers have been exposed to two to 21 years to welding fumes. The control group also consisted of 57 subjects, not exposed to known harmful chemicals. Forty-five per cent of the men in the study were smokers and 32 were alcohol consumers. Sperm samples were obtained after a three-day period of sexual abstinence.
Heavy metals nickel and chromium are widely distributed in the work place. Nickel is extensively used in the plating industry, sometimes in combination with other metals. It is also used in electroplating, welding, flame cutting, flame spraying, and mould making. Nickel is also used in the manufacture of jewellery, coinage, cutlery, cooking utensils and dental or surgical prostheses. Chromium is used in metallurgy, chrome plating, welding, chemical industry, textile manufacture, wood preservation, photography and photoengraving, refractory industry and cooling system.
Nickel crosses the placental barrier, directly affecting the developing embryo or foetus in experimental animals. Spermatotoxic effects of nickel in mice have also been observed.

Women pass on infertility to sons

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Hyderabadi women are increasingly turning infertile with as many as 15 per cent of them suffering from fertility-related problems and transmitting infertility to their sons. This is five per cent higher than women living elsewhere in the world.
According to a research study on infertility and its causes in women in twin cities, environmental pollution caused by polycholrinated biphenyls and pthalate esters is the main culprit for increasing infertility among women. Worse, the problem is passed on to the male children further contributing to high male infertility figures.
High percentage of chemical pollutants in city's atmosphere is leading to a severe infertility problem called endometriosis among women. While other major cities around the world reported 10 per cent of women suffering from endometriosis-related infertility, the incidence is exceptionally high in Hyderabad with 15 per cent of the female population reporting endometriosis.
The study, carried out by the Assisted Conception Services Unit of Mahavir Hospital and Research Centre, traced the high infertility rate to use of plastics and other chemical pollutants. Earlier scientists from Oxford University, London, were baffled by the exceptionally high incidence of endometriosis in Hyderabad. The Wellcome Trust has funded the research project.
According to city fertility expert Dr Roya Rozati of Mahavir Hospital, the subject women underwent laparoscopy if the duration of infertility was more than five years as part of their infertility work-up. If there were any symptoms including pain, dysmenorrhea, dyspareunia which is suggestive of endometriosis, then laproscopy was performed even if marriage life was less then five years.
Six hundred and forty-five infertile couples were screened for infertility for over a period of six years. The break-up of the study revealed that 15 per cent of women had tubal factor, 15.6 per cent ovulatory dysfunction, 13.1 per cent endometriosis, 26.9 per cent male factor infertility, 12.8 per cent cervical or uterine factor and 16.2 per cent of couples had unexplained reasons for infertility. A notable feature was that the couples had no history of smoking, alcohol and other addictions. They also consumed little caffeine.
The Oxford Endometriosis Group in the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology had carried out a collaborative research programme with the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and the Infertility Institute & Research Centre in Hyderabad.
"Up to 10 per cent of women in any population may have the disease, but the incidence around Hyderabad is particularly high with 15 per cent of women in the city suffering from the problem," says Dr Roya.
There is currently no cure for endometriosis, which causes severe pelvic pain and reduces fertility. The only treatment available for the patients are hormonal drugs which only control symptoms. Removal of pelvic organs or surgery is the other option.

Good news for infertile couples: And now scientists create sperm in test tube

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Couples with male infertility need no longer go in for sperm borrowing from strangers to bear children. Thanks to an ongoing research by a team of city-based doctors on invitro culture of testicular tissue using stem cell culture techniques, infertile men without any sperm production can now reproduce offspring.
Fertility doctors at Mahavir Hospital and Research Centre and Owaisi Hospital and Research Centre have succeeded thus far in artificial culture of testicular tissue in infertile men with non-obstructive Azoospermia (nil sperm count). The pioneering research work, which started about six months ago, is in the final stages of success. The work was presented at an international conference on infertility held in the city on September 3.
"We will be able to fertilise ovum with the sperm obtained through stem cells in a couple of months," Dr Roya Rozati, who is supervising the research, told this correspondent.
Doctors in South Korea are doing a similar research but using human embryonic stem cells and since research on human embryos is banned in India, the Mahavir-Owaisi team has taken up work on testicular tissue. A team of researchers in the USA have successfully carried out stem cell research using testicular tissue of mice. It is yet to be experimented on human beings there.
The city doctors have selected 10 infertile men for the research to develop sperm from spermatogonial stem cells, which can be used to fertilise eggs and enable infertile men to overcome infertility problems. They also wants to establish culture methods to expand cell lines of spermatogonial stem cells.
"After producing sperm we will go for intra cytoplasmic sperm induction process to help infertile men bear children," Dr Roya pointed out. This methodology besides opening new avenues of basic research into spermatogenesis and stem cell self-renewal may also prove as a useful tool for biomedical science and biotechnology.
Sperm stem cells could be removed from a donor, cultured to increase their numbers, frozen, and then re-implanted back into the donor (or another male) at a future date. These sperm stem cells have the "potential" of serving as a source for more versatile adult stem cells to replace diseased or injured tissue.
here is a threshold of quantitative sperm production in the deficient testis, below which no sperm will reach the ejaculate (azoospermia). This threshold phenomenon of spermatogenesis is the reason that many cases of non-obstructive azoospermia sperm can often be extracted from testicular tissue of azoospermic men with germinal failure, and used successfully for ICSI.
Men with non-obstructive azoospermia caused by germinal failure have a mean of 0 to 3 mature spermatids per seminiferous tubule seen on a diagnostic testicle biopsy. This compared to 17 to 35 mature spermatids per tubule in men with normal spermatogenesis and obstructive azoospermia.

Take cloves to beat stress, keep away heart attacks

By Syed Akbar
We all know that laung or clove is good for teeth. Clove oil helps in fighting tooth decay and gives relief from toothache. But now Indian scientists have come out with a study that tells us that clove (Eugenia caryophyllus) is the best stress buster and keeps away heart problems. Stress is emerging as the major killer in the world and clove is the simplest remedy to the problem. Since stress and heart ailments are related, by taking cloves regularly one will not only beat the stress but also fights heart attacks.

Clove contains a special substance called hydro alcohol and this substance is known to give relief from stress. The scientific team studied the anti-stress effect of hydro-alcoholic extract of clove by evaluating it on cold restraint induced gastric ulcers, sound stress induced biochemical changes and anoxic stress induced convulsions.

As part of the research project the extract from the clove was given orally twice daily to mice. The first dose was of 100 mg/kg while the second dose was of 200 mg/kg. The team used zeetress, a known anti-stress formulation as the standard drug.

The scientific team comprised Anand Kumar Singh, Sunil S Dhamanigi and Mohammed Asad of Krupanidhi College of Pharmacy, Bengaluru. The researchers found that both the doses of clove extract showed good anti-stress effect in all the tested models. The clove extract reduced the development of cold restraint induced gastric ulcers and prevented the biochemical changes induced by sound stress such as increase in plasma levels of aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, glucose, cholesterol and corticosterone.

"Stress is a common phenomenon that is experienced by every individual. When stress becomes extreme, it is harmful for the body and, hence, needs to be treated. Stress is involved in the pathogenesis of a variety of diseases that includes psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, immunosuppression, endocrine disorders including diabetes mellitus, male impotence, cognitive dysfunction, peptic ulcer, hypertension and ulcerative colitis," the study pointed out saying that clove, is one of the natural stress busters.

For the purpose of the study, the team selected albino Wistar rats weighing between 175 and 250 gm and Swiss albino mice weighing 25 to 40 gm. The experiment continued for 14 days. Stress was induced in the mice through chemicals and later clove extract was administered to them.

The team showed that hydro-alcoholic extract of clove possesses significant anti-stress activity. "The effect of clove may be due to its effect on the central nervous system or endocrines and it may also be due to its antioxidant effect as anti-oxidants are known to prevent stress induced damage due to generation of
free radicals," the study said.

The clove gets its medicinal properties mainly because of the presence of volatile oils like eugenol. The team however noted that the exact mechanism by which clove produces its anti-stress activity cannot be explained with the data collected during the study. "We speculated that the antioxidant effect of the clove buds might contribute at least in part to its anti-stress activity," the scientists said.

So, the next time you come across spicy food, do not complain. Ensure that the "spicy food" has a good number of cloves too. This will bust your stress, whether it is work-related or due to domestic problems.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New species of bacteria discovered in space may shed light on origin of life

Syed Akbar

In a major discovery which may ultimately throw some light on the origin of life, a team of Indian scientistshas collected three new species of bacteria from the sky.

We all know that the Earth is filled with viruses, bacteria and micro-organisms, besides other life forms. Many, however, do not know that some of the micro-organisms live in the Earth's atmosphere, up in the sky. Scientists believe that a thorough study of these creatures living in the upper stratosphere (the area of ozone) will reveal the secrets of the origin of life on the human planet.

Incidentally, the three new species of bacteria discovered by the Indian group are not found on the Earth. Since these bacteria have made the stratosphere or ozone layer portion as their abode, they have developed resistance to the harmful ultra violent rays. That they survive in the dangerous radiation is in itself a marvel,
and scientists want to unravel this marvel, mystery.

If we could know how these bacteria survive the intense radiation up in the sky, we can probably device some methods to keep ourselves free from the harmful effects of radiation. Then no nuclear war will hurt us at least bodily, with our skin being intact. Of course, the dangers of genetic damage due to radiation still persists in
case of nuclear holocaust.

The new species of bacteria were found by scientists from the Indian Space Research
Organisation and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. What the scientists from these two organisations did was to send atmospheric balloons from the National Balloon Facility in Hyderabad. The new organisms have been named after famous astrophysicist Fred Hoyle (Janibacter hoylei), ISRO (Bacillus isronensis)
and after ancient Indian astronomer Aryabhata (Bacillus aryabhata).

According to ISRO scientists, the experiment was conducted using a 26.7 million cubic feet balloon carrying a 459 kg scientific payload soaked in 38 kg of liquid neon. The scientific equipment included a cryo (cold)sampler containing 16 evacuated and sterilised stainless steel probes. Throughout the flight, the probes
remained immersed in liquid neon to create a cryopump effect.

These cylinders, after collecting air samples from different heights ranging from 20 km to 41 km, were parachuted down and safely retrieved. These samples were analysed by scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, as well as the National Centre for Cell Science, Pune, for independent examination.

"In all, 12 bacterial and six fungal colonies were detected, nine of which, based on 16S RNA gene sequence, showed greater than 98 per cent similarity with reported known species on earth. Three bacterial colonies, namely, PVAS-1, B3 W22 and B8 W22 were, however, totally new species. All the three newly identified species had significantly higher UV resistance compared to their nearest phylogenetic
neighbours," an official statement from ISRO said.

The scientists said the precautionary measures and controls operating in this experiment inspire confidence that these species were picked up in the stratosphere. "While the present study does not conclusively establish
the extra-terrestrial origin of micro-organisms, it does provide positive encouragement to continue the work in our quest to explore the origin of life," they said.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Search goes on for uranium reserves in Andhra Pradesh

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: After successfully striking uranium reserves in the Nagarjunasagar belt, the city-based Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research will now take up magnetic and gamma ray spectrometric surveys in parts of Kurnool and Kadapa basins for detection of uranium and thorium reserves.
The electromagnetic, magnetic and gamma ray spectrometric surveys will be carried out by helicopters covering about 11000 km area in Kurnool sub-basin and Kadapa basin. The aerial exploration work will be completed in one year.
AMD will initially take up testing of 900 line Km in a test block of 15 Km X 15 Km and on its successful completion, the remaining area will be released for survey at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore. Multiparameter (gamma-ray, magnetic) geophysical surveys are useful in mineral exploration and bedrock mapping studies.
"There's a possibility of encountering a number of surprises in the metallogenic evaluation of the terrain when probed at greater depth than that is usually superficially perceived," says a senior official of the AMD.
Kadapa and Kurnool basins are endowed with rich mineral wealth. The
middle-upper Proterozoic Kadapa basin, has been well known for a variety of mineral resources, such as diamond, barite, asbestos, copper and lead, besides limestone and Kadapa slabs. Some of the world’s finest and famous
diamonds, such as Kohinoor and Regent are the product of this basin. About 25 per cent of the world’s barite resources are present within the basin.
Though Uranium exploration was initiated in the late 1950’s to
search the quartz-pebble-conglomerate type uranium mineralisation which had dominated the world uranium supply at that time, a proper scientific survey is yet to be taken up. The basal Gulcheru conglomerates at the base of Kadapa basin were found to be thoriferous. Subsequent exploration in the late 1980’s, brought out significant uranium mineralisation in dolostone.
A significant breakthrough was achieved in early 1990’s when uranium mineralisation was located along the unconformity between Srisailam Formation of Kadapa Super Group and the basement granites,
thereby establishing in India, for the first time, the presence of unconformity
related uranium mineralisation - a category considered most potential world over.
Earlier studies by AMD recognised three distinct types of uranium mineralisation, strata bound, fracture controlled (both basement granite and sediment hosted) and unconformity-related type. The present work, which will be allotted after May 15, when the tenders for the present work will be opened, will give more focus on the uranium reserves in Kadapa and Kurnool areas.

Water crisis in Andhra Pradesh due to overexploitation of ground water

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Ground water levels have fallen by about five metres indicating the severe water crisis in the State as the summer advances in the next couple of weeks.
The State is now faced with the lowest ever ground water levels recorded in the past one decade. Rayalaseema and Telangana are the worst affected regions where the average fall in ground water is as high as five metres. Never in the past the State had witnessed such a phenomenal fluctuation in the ground water levels in a span of eight months.
If one looks at the water levels in the past few years, there is a fall of more than five metres in parts of Prakasam, Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapur, Kurnool, Mahbubnagar, Ranga Reddy, Medak, Adilabad, Warangal and Nalgonda districts.
People in as many as 167 mandals, mostly in Rayalaseema and Telangana, will literally crave for water if official statistics are any indication. Anantapur district will be in real trouble with 28 mandals going dry. It is followed by Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy's native Kadapa and Telugu Desam supremo N Chandrababu Naidu's native Chittoor districts with 17 mandals each. Mahbubnagar in Telangana and Prakasam in Andhra have also been declared as "severe water shortage areas".
According to official records in the ground water department, the average depth to water level in the State had come down from 7.60 metres a few years ago to 14.00 metres now5. Rainfall came down from 1128 mm to 611 mm in the last few years, while the exploitation of the ground water resources had gone up upsetting the delicate balance.
The State is in the grip of severe water shortage. Against the normal rainfall of 940 mm the State received just 611 mm till January-end, recording a deficit of 35 per cent. Only Khammam, Nellore, Nalgonda, Srikakulam and Mahbubnagar districts received normal rainfall.
Ground water levels in Thimmaiahgaripalli village in Chitvel mandal of Kadapa district have gone down to 72.85 mts, the deepest water level for any place in the State. Deep water levels of more than 20 metres were recorded at the end of January in parts of Medak, Hyderabad, Mahbubnagar, Anantapur, kadapa, Chittoor and Praskasam districts while wagter levels between 10 and 20 mts were recorded in almost the entire Rayalaseema and Telangana regions and in parts of Prakasam and West Godavari districts.

Friday, April 17, 2009

No fatty acids, no cancer, says NIN scientist

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 9: Avoid fatty acids in diet and keep off cancer. Fatty acids particularly of the saturated type play a major role in promoting cancer in humans.
According to National Institute of Nutrition director Dr B Seshikeran, diets low in micronutrients will also increase the risk of cancers.
"The components of the food we eat on one side cause cancer but on the other also protect us from this dreaded disease," he told an international seminar on nutritional evaluation of foods here on Thursday.
Cancer is one of the major causes of mortality and morbidity in the world. The annual incidence of cancer in India is about seven lakh with at least two million people suffering from it at any given time. Around four lakh people die every year in the country due to cancer.
What is interesting is that almost one-third of all cancer cases are related the food habits. "The dietary factors which may promote cancer are the fatty acids, i.e. saturated and to some extent n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), while n-3 has a distinct preventive role. Diets low in micronutrients increase the risk of cancers in a milieu of pro-carcinogens," he said.
Selenium, Zinc and ascorbic acid act as antioxidants and have anti cancer properties. Fruits and vegetables are the most beneficial in cancer prevention.
"Isothiocyanates in cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower and cabbage, phenolic compounds in garlic, green tea, soya and cereals, flavonoids in fruits, vegetables, green tea, soya bean, garlic, citrus fruits, mint and organo sulphides contribute to the anti-cancer properties," Dr Seshikeran said.
Food analysis will provide the basis for choice of food, which may benefit significantly by reducing cancer risk, he pointed out.

The truth about OTC drugs

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Suffering from headache, loose motions or common cold? Just don't rush to a chemist for an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine. Chances are that you may develop nausea, severe allergic reactions, kidney failure or even cancer.
More often than not the blame does not lie with the chemist but with the type of drug he gives you. As many as a dozen generic or basic drugs, which have been banned world-wide, are freely available in twin cities. Strangely enough, these drugs enjoy the legal status as they are yet to be banned by the Indian government.
"For a drug to be banned the Central government needs concrete evidence supported by research studies on its bad side-effects. Unfortunately, in India we do not have post-drug follow-up records. Pharmaceutical companies take advantage of this", argues R Uday Bhaskar, secretary-general of All-India Drug Control Officers' Confederation.
He, however, wants these drugs to be banned as "what is bad for people in the USA and Europe is equally bad for Indians, whether we have post-drug follow-up studies or not".
The Central government has banned 76 categories of Fixed Dose Combination or individual drugs. Ironically, the government banned these drugs only after the manufacturers voluntarily withdrew them. Rofecoxid is one such drug. It was found to be dangerous to heart patients. However, many irrational combination drugs are still sold freely.
Some of the drugs banned in the USA, European Union, Australia and developed countries but still available in India are:
Analgin (pain-killer), Cisapride (acidity, constipation), Droperidol (anti-depressant), Furazolidone (anti-diarrhoea), Nimesulide (pain-killer, fever), Nitrofurazone (anti-bacterial cream), Phenolphthalein (laxative), Phenylpropanolamine (cold and cough), Oxyphenbutazone (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory), Piperazine (anti-worms) and Quiniodochlor (anti-diarrhoeal).
Nimelsulide, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, has been banned in many countries for its reported liver toxicity. The Central government approved Nimelsulide in 1994 for treatment of painful inflammatory musculo-skeletal disorders but many doctors prescribe it for ordinary pain and fever. Nimelsulide and Cyproflaxin (100 mg) have been banned for paediatric use but doctors continue to prescribe them for children.
Dr SV Chandrasekhar, consultant surgeon of Apollo Hospitals, says drugs like analgin should not be used for children while furazolidone is equally bad for adults and children. "Combination drugs are not advisable. When a patient suffers from one problem why should he or she be given a combination of drugs? Vitamins are always sold in combination. A person does not suffer from deficiency of several vitamins or minerals at a time. Overdose may cause severe problems", he points out.

The side-effects:
1. Analgin (it is used in dozens of drugs including Novalgin): Causes bone marrow depression, ulcers and reflex action.
2. Cisapride (available under brand names Ciza and Syspride): Causes irregular heartbeat and palpitation.
3. Droperidol (brand name Droperol): Affects the heart and blood circulation.
4. Furazolidone (Furaxone, Lomofen): Nausea, severe headache, cancer and damage to intestines.
5. Nimesulide (Nise, Nimulid): Causes liver failure.
6. Nitrofurazone (Furacin): Causes cancer.
7. Phenolphthalein (Agarol): Found to be carcinogenic.
8. Phenylpropanolamine (D'Cold, Vicks Action-500): May lead to stroke.
9. Oxyphenbutazone (Sioril): Bone marrow depression.
10. Piperazine (Piperazine): Causes damage to nerves.
11. Quiniodochlor (Enteroquinol): Damages eyesight.

There's a link between allergy and asthma, say Hyderabad scientists

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A group of city scientists has identified the genetic link in Indian population to over-allergic reactions (atopy) and asthma.
Researchers at the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Saboo Hospital and Research Centre, Osmania Medical College and Niloufer Children's Hospital came out with a genetic analysis of bronchial asthma in Indian population elucidating the complex genetic regulation of the disease including atopy. The study will help in better understanding of the root causes of these chronic diseases and effective diagnosis and treatment.
The research work gains significance in the backdrop of increasing instances of asthma and active allergic problems in the country. So far, researchers have been looking at asthma from environmental point of view and for the first time in India, the city researchers have turned their concentration on the genetic aspects of this complex polygenic disease. Asthma is commonly associated with familial atopic syndrome and increased levels of total IgE (immunoglobulins E).
The study carried out by GR Chandak, M Mohammed Idris, Sandeep Saboo, GS Ramalaxmi and others points out asthma and allergy are not inherited as single gene disorders and do not follow a simple Mendelian inheritance. A complex interaction between environmental and genetic factors produces the disease susceptibility and expression.
Identifying specific genetic polymorphisms that influence asthma and atopic phenotypes will also help in better screening of the "at risk" population and pave the way for extension of these markers in different population groups in the country. It may also lead to a novel strategy to modulate the course of this disease or identify better therapeutic modalities.
The city researchers investigated the association of polymorphisms and extended haplotype in genes (IL4 and IL4RA) with atopy and asthma in the Indian population and attempted to study whether genotypic and haplotypic differences can account for the phenotypic variations in atopic and non-atopic asthmatic individuals.
The probands (individual subjects of a genetic study) and control subjects were recruited based on the evaluation of clinical and family history using a standardised questionnaire following the guidelines of American Thoracic Society. They were examined for a self-reported history of breathlessness, wheeze, allergic rhinitis and eczema and confirmed by various pulmonary function tests.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Himalayas are twice older than believed

By Syed Akbar

How old are the Himalayas, the snow-covered mountains that wall the northern India? Existing scientific records and evidence show that the Himalayas are less than eight million years old. But a group of scientists from India and the United Kingdom has negated this widely held belief and established with latest scientific evidence that the mountains are twice as older. In short, the Himalayas took their birth about 15 million years ago.

The Indo-British team has found evidence for early uplift of Himalayas within the central Indian Ocean. "The discovery that the earth’s strong outer shell — the ‘lithosphere’ — within the central Indian Ocean began to deform and fracture 15.4-13.9 million years ago, much earlier than previously thought, impacts our understanding of the birth of the Himalayas and the strengthening of the Indian-Asian monsoon," says Dr K.S. Krishna of the Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography.

According to an official release from the National Institute of Oceanography, India and Asia collided around 50 million years ago as a result of plate tectonics — the large-scale movements of the lithosphere, which continue to this day. The study was published in Geology, a scientific magazine published by the Geological Society of America.

"The ocean floor has been systematically transformed into folds 100-300 kilometres long and 2,000-3,000 metres high, and there are also regularly spaced faults or cracks that are evident from seismic surveys and ocean drilling," points out Dr Krishna in the research study.

The onset of this deformation marks the start of major geological uplift of the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, some 4,000 km further to the north, due to stresses within the wider India-Asia area. Some studies indicate that it began around 8.0-7.5 million years ago, while others have indicated that it started before 8.0 million years ago, and perhaps much earlier.

This controversy has now been addressed by Dr Krishna and his British colleagues Prof. Jon Bull of the University of Southampton, and Prof. Roger Scrutton of Edinburgh University. They have analysed seismic profiles of 293 faults (vertical cracks in the ocean floor) in the accumulated sediments of the Bengal Fan. This is the world’s largest submarine fan, a delta-shaped accumulation of land-derived sediments covering the floor of the Bay of Bengal.

The NIO statement points out that the team demonstrated that deformation of the lithosphere within the central Indian Ocean started around 15.4-13.9 million years ago, much earlier than most previous estimates. This implies considerable Himalayan uplift before 8.0 million years ago, which is when many geologists believe that the strong seasonal winds of the India-Asia monsoon first started.

"However," says Dr Krishna, "the realisation that the onset of lithospheric deformation within the central Indian Ocean occurred much earlier fits in well with more recent evidence that the strengthening of the monsoon was linked to the early geological uplift of the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau up to 15-20 million years ago."

Scientists believe that intensive deep-sea drilling within the Bengal Fan would provide better age estimates for the onset of deformation of the lithosphere in the central Indian Ocean and concretise the recent findings. There are more weighty geological questions related to the geodynamics of the Indian Plate yet to be understood.

Principal among these being the issue of how exactly did the ocean floor buckle and crack in space and time, and what will be the future course of this compressional activity in the central Indian Ocean.

The NIO statement said further scientists would like to gather new evidences for understanding of 1) why and how the central Indian Ocean region has now become site where mountains are rising up from the ocean floor and cracks are propagating within the crust; and 2) whether the present process could be a pre-cursor to the formation of a subduction zone in the central Indian Ocean.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

India gets nuclear shipment from Russia

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 10: India on Friday received 30 tonnes of uranium pellets from Russia. This is the first-ever nuclear consignment from Russia and the second from a foreign country after India signed the nuclear deal with the USA.

Earlier, the country received 60 tonnes of uranium oxide fuel from a French firm. India will receive a total of 300 tonnes of nuclear fuel from France. Russia has promised 150 tonnes of nuclear fuel under an agreement and of this 30 tonnes was delivered to the city-based Nuclear Fuel Complex.

With this India has thus far received 90 tonnes of uranium after the Nuclear Suppliers' Group lifted restrictions on the nation, following India signing an agreement on September 6, 2008. NFC officials confirmed arrival of the fuel from Russia.

The Russian consignment was delivered by TVEL, a subsidiary of government-controlled nuclear power corporation, Atomenergoprom. The Russian fuel will be used in heavy water reactors, particularly the one in Rajasthan.

The country signed a 700 million US dollar contract with the Russian firm on February 11, further boosting the nuclear cooperation between the two countries. Moreover, Russia will build four more nuclear reactors in the country. It has already constructed two reactors at Kundankulam nuclear power plant.

Recently NFC officials visited TVEL plant in Russia and signed protocols confirming acceptance of 30 tonnes of nuclear fuel.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Uranium: India gets biggest-ever nuclear consignment

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 31: In the biggest-ever nuclear consignment, India
on Tuesday received 60 tons of uranium from French nuclear supplier
AREVA NC. This forms part of the 300 tons of uranium ore
concentrate, which India will get under Indo-French bilateral
agreement in the aftermath of clearance by Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The remaining nuclear consignment will reach the country later this
month. India will also get 120 tons of uranium ore from Russia in the
next few days.

RN Jayaraj, chief executive of city-based Nuclear Fuel Complex, which
handles this uranium ore for conversion into nuclear reactor grade
pellets, told reporters that "India has wonderful days ahead".

Though NFC supplies nuclear fuel to 15 Pressurised Heavy Water
Reactors and two boiling water reactors, the present nuclear
consignment will be used only in two reactors covered under
"safeguards domain" as per Indo-US nuclear deal and 123 agreement.
The reactors, where the imported fuel is used, are open for international

The French consignment and the proposed Russian nuclear supplies
will boost India's plans to generate green energy from uranium. The 60
tons of fuel India got on Tuesday will generate 256 crore units of

The material from AREVA NC will be processed in the designated fuel
plants at NFC. The uranium ore concentrate is converted into nuclear
grade pellets and sintered at high temperature to get high density
uranium dioxide pellets. These pellets are stacked and encapsulated in
thin walled tubes of zirconium alloy. Nineteen such fuel pins are
assembled to form a fuel bundle for PHWR 220 megawatt plants. The
bundles so produced will be loaded in the safeguarded nuclear plants,
he said.

By 2030 the country's installed nuclear capacity could grow to 63,000

Nuclear Fuel Complex Makes A Mark At International Level

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 31: From a stage where it has to struggle to put together
components for India's nuclear reactors, the city-based Nuclear Fuel Complex has
now graduated to the level of exporting technology to third world countries.

In the next few days, NFC is all set to export "End-closure Welding Machine"
through International Atomic Energy Commission. The Nuclear Fuel Complex
emerged successful in international bidding on this critical machine employed in
bundling fuel for nuclear reactors.

"We are exporting the End-closure Welding Machine to a third world country
through IAEC. We got the order to manufacture this critical equipment. It is now
ready for despatch. Two decades ago we could not secure the machine because
of international restrictions. We have to develop it using indigenous
technology and today we are in a position to export it," RN Jayaraj, NFC
chief executive said.

Fuel bundles loaded with uranium pellets are used in nuclear reactors. The
bundles have to be welded at both ends using precision technology without
any leakage. The bundles have to pass through the critical helium testing to
ensure that the welded ends are strong enough to withstand the heat and do
not leak in the least. The Nuclear Fuel Complex team has mastered the art.
The machine has been developed by the automation group of the NFC.

The integrity of the fuel bundle depends primarily on the integrity of the end-
cap weld. NFC has always worked on improving the technology. "These
tubes undergo helium leak tests which give us an integrated picture in the
case of end-cap welds," said deputy chief executive Sai Baba. The NFC has
also introduced robotic handling system for bigger fuel bundles which weigh
24 kgs.

Jayaraj told reporters that the GE has expressed interest in seamless Calendria
tubes used in nuclear reactors. "Seamless calendria tubes improve the
reliability and yield. GE wants these tubes for its nuclear reactors," he added.