Monday, February 28, 2011

Cancers and diet: Take 400 grams of fruits and vegetables daily to ward off cancers

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 28: Daily intake of 400 grams of fruits and vegetables will protect people from a number of cancers linked to diet.

According to Dr B Sesikeran, director of the National Institute of Nutrition, one should consume large quantities of fruits and vegetables and avoid dietary supplements sold in the market. "Fresh fruits and vegetables prevent formation of cancers of mouth, throat, food pipe, stomach, large intestine, breast, uterus and prostate glands. But dietary supplements obtained from fruits and vegetables will in fact increase the risk of these cancers," he said.

Dr Sesikeran was delivering a popular lecture at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology to mark the national science day here on Monday. He said 30 per cent of cancers can be prevented by regulating diet and increased physical activity. "There are cancers like blood cancer that are genetic in nature. We cannot do much about them. Cancer of cervix is linked to a virus. However, cancers linked to diet can be prevented," he said.

Stating that about 25 per cent of Indians are inactive without any physical activity, Dr Sesikeran said those with higher physical activity were at less risk of cancers. Inclusion of onions and garlic in food will reduce the risk of stomach cancer while carrot can prevent lung cancer. Large intake of fruits will reduce the risk of lung cancer, while tomato prevents prostate cancer.

He cautioned people against taking ready-made dietary supplements like carotenoids (extracted from carrot) and lycopene (extracted from tomato) as they actually increase the risk of cancers. "Take the whole fruit or vegetable. Do not go in for ready-made chemical dietary supplements and reduce the salt intake. Most of the salt comes from restaurant or preserved foods," he warned.

Referring to cancers in women, Dr Sesikeran said post-menopausal women, who put on five kgs of weight, are more at risk of endometrial cancer, while women, who breast-feed their children, are at low risk of contacting breast cancer. "Taller women are at greater risk of breast cancer," he added.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Nuclear forensic science to catch criminals, trace mastermind behind terror incidents

By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Feb 24:  Hi-tech criminals and terrorists beware! Thanks to recent advancement in nuclear forensic science in India, law-enforcing agencies in the country can now easily catch terror and hi-tech criminal groups, even while tracing the real mastermind behind terror incidents.
According to Dr Rukmani Krishnamurthy, technical adviser, Institute of Forensic Science, Mumbai, recent research in nuclear forensic science at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre will not only help in tackling incidents of illicit trafficking, but also effectively meet the threat of nuclear terrorism.
“The neutron activation analysis method now increasingly being adopted in forensic sciences provides hints on the origin of the material, and thus on the perpetrator. Unlike conventional methods like truth serum and lie-detector tests, forensic results obtained through neutron activation analysis at Barc serve as evidence in a court of law. It is as concrete a proof in a court of law as any DNA fingerprinting analysis,” Dr Rukmani told this correspondent.
Dr Rukmani is one of the nuclear forensic science experts participating in the ongoing 10th biennial symposium on nuclear and radiochemistry (Nucar – 2011) at GITAM University here. She said nuclear forensic science had emerged as the ultimate solution to the grave problem of techno-crime detection in the country.
Using Neutron activation analysis methods, one can determine in case of gunshot residues whether a hole is really due to the passage of a bullet. Analysis of firearm discharge residue in the hands of a suspect shooter will help differentiate homicide from suicide, besides identifying the shooter. “We can also estimate the range of firing and differentiate entry and exit shot hole and match the bullet specimen with metal piece 
obtained from the scene of the crime,” Dr Rukmani pointed out.
Analysis of biological material will help confirm toxic metals in poisoning cases. Experts will also know whether a particular case was of slow or acute poisoning. The availability of high neutron flux reactor at Barc has made hi-tech crime detection quite easier.
According to her, the most important advantage of NAA technique apart from its unparallel sensitivity, specificity and accuracy, is the simultaneous multi element determination capability without destroying the sample in the process. “Thus NAA allows re-examination of exhibits, archival preservation and presentation of the evidence material in court of law, if necessary,” she said.
It will also help in obtaining clues on the origin and on the intended use of the material seized from terror groups or hi-tech criminals.
“Nuclear forensics has reached a high degree of maturity in the country and it is highly relevant in the areas of non-proliferation and of nuclear security. Criminals use the latest technology to commit hi-tech crimes. Crimes are no more localized. They are organised globally. Terrorist activity and the information technology related crimes are the latest trends in the crime scenario,” Dr Rukmani observed, elaborating how NAA 
technique will bust complicated crimes indulged in by international terror groups.
According to her, the application of micro analytical techniques enables investigators to study even individual particles of only a few micrometres in size. This will fix terror groups and hi-tech criminals from escaping the long arms of law.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Provenance study: Neutron activation analysis to pinpoint geographical origin of archaeological objects

By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Feb 23: A city nuclear scientist has developed technology to pinpoint the geographical source of archaeological artefacts without damaging their structure.
“So far we have technology to tell the age of an archaeological finding. But now we can tell from which place a particular archaeological artefact has originated, without subjecting the material to destruction,” says senior nuclear physicist Dr N Lakshmana Das.
In conventional technology, archaeological artefacts are subjected to damage and destruction as it involves chemical studies. The new provenance study conducted by Dr Lakshmana Das in association with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre does not involve any damage to the artefacts like historical potteries, idols, bricks, stones, coins and paints.
“Since they are of great historical and archaeological value, we cannot damage them. They are meant for preservation for posterity. We use instrumental neutron activation analysis to find out the source of the object. So far we have completed studies on 20 Buddhist historic sites and work is in place in another 20 sites covering Bavikonda, Thotlakonda and Pavaralakonda Buddhist locations,” Dr Lakshman Das, who is also the principal of GITAM deemed university.
The artefact, whose source of origin is to be studied, is kept in a nuclear reactor which studies its elementary composition including rare earth elements and gives the analysis quite accurately. “The technology is so accurate that there’s no scope for error. Even if the element is present as minutely as one in a billion parts, the instrumental neutron activation analysis pinpoints to the source material,” he said.
The variation of trace elements depends on the place and preparation and hence determination of concentration of trace elements of significance becomes more important. Group of elements used for provenance studies are alkali and alkaline elements, transition elements and rare earth elements.
As many as 140 Buddhist sites have been identified in Andhra Pradesh ranging in date from pre-Ashoka (3rd century BC) to Vishnukundin times (5th century CE). The sites extend from Dantapuram in the north to Nandaluru in the south and Kotilingala in the west to Bhattiprolu in the east of Andhra Pradesh. Buddhist monks traveled to Sri Lanka via Orissa and Andhra Pradesh and then spread to East Asia. The provenance studies will provide an insight whether the luggage carried by the monks were local in origin.

100 years of atomic nucleus: Nuclear scientists remember Ernest Rutherford

By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Feb 23: Nuclear scientists from around the world including those from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre on Wednesday celebrated 100 years of the birth of the atomic nucleus. The celebrations in this port city gains significance as Andhra University is the only institution of higher learning in India to offer advanced course in nuclear physics.
Andhra University started the department of nuclear physics way back in October 1954 and still continues to be the only one of its kind in the country offering advanced level teaching and research in nuclear physics.
About 160 eminent nuclear scientists attending the ongoing Nucar-2011 symposium here paid rich tributes to Ernest Rutherford, who accidentally discovered the atomic nucleus in February 1911. The discovery changed the course of thinking of man and led to the birth of new branches of science, nuclear physics and chemistry.
“The route to discovery was classic,” said Dr R Marshall, of the University of Manchester, England. The objective of the research 100 years ago was not to discover the nucleus, he said adding that it had more humble aims.
“But as soon as the results of the humble research showed unexpected behaviour, the presence of a new phenomenon was recognized at once and further relentless research was carried out until it was understood,” Dr Marshall said.
Rutherford’s team carried out the experiment in 1909 but he made the findings public in February 1911 when he published his research paper in Philosophical magazine.
Dr BS Tomar, senior scientist from Barc, said Rutherford interpreted the results of the now-famous gold foil experiment carried out by his team comprising Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden in 1909.
He said, “Rutherford expected only slight deflection of alpha particles fired at a thin gold foil, but what the team discovered shocked and amazed him. Remarking on the alpha particles that bounced back, Rutherford said, “It was l
ike firing a 15 inch shell at a sheet of tissue paper and having it bounce back.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Uranium from sea water: Bhabha Atomic Research Centre develops special membrane to extract uranium

By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Feb 22: Bhabha Atomic Research Centre has developed a specialised membrane that could extract uranium from seawater much faster than the conventional methods, boosting uranium mining from the Deep.
Seawater is estimated to contain as much as 4.6 billion tons of uranium and the nuclear fuel obtained from the oceans could help feed nuclear reactors once the conventional uranium reserves of 5.5 million tons are exhausted. With a vast coastline, India can extract large resources of sea uranium to meet its uranium demand.
Laboratory studies in Barc have shown that the new membrane called PEGMP has increased the overall efficacy for uranium uptake from seawater. This is far superior to the conventional membrane called PAO. Since it has been proved that the uranium obtained from the seawater can be used in uranium reactors for power generation, nuclear scientists hope that the Barc’s new membrane combined with nanotechnology will make seawater uranium mining highly economical.
According to Dr Ashok K Pandey or radiochemistry division of Barc, “PEGMP membrane offers several advantages over widely used PAO membrane for uranium recovery from seawater. An attempt was made in our lab to carry out comparative evaluation of PEGMP-membrane with PAO-membrane for uranium sorption under seawater condition. The studies indicated potential applications of the PEGMP-membrane in uranium preconcentration from seawater and other natural aquifers for uranium quantification as well as its recovery,” he said.
Dr Ashok is presenting a technical paper at the ongoing five-day 10th biennial symposium on nuclear and radiochemistry (Nucor – 2011) in the port city of Visakhapatnam. “The presence of uranium in the dissolved state makes its recovery from seawater possible. The uniform concentration of uranium throughout the sea indicates existence of a dynamic equilibrium between dissolved uranium and insoluble sedimentary uranium. Therefore, the recovery of uranium from seawater may lead to dissolution of uranium present in the seabed,” he pointed out.
However, the economical recovery of uranium is a challenge in view of the chemical and bio-aggressive nature of seawater. Stating that the scientific challenge is the development of the sorbents that are selective towards uranium and can withstand hostile bio-chemical marine environment over a prolonged period, he said efforts are on in making the recovered uranium cost competitive. Enormous volume of water has to be processed for 
recovery of one ton of uranium.
Barc’s new membrane technology is also superior to other conventional processes involving solvent extraction, ion exchange, reverse osmosis and ultra filtration.

Research nuclear reactor: BARC campus in Visakhapatnam to have a nuclear reactor for research

By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Feb 22: Andhra Pradesh will finally get a nuclear reactor, though a research one. The country’s second research nuclear reactor will be set up in Visakhapatnam within the proposed campus of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in the port city.
There has been strong opposition from environmental groups to setting up of a nuclear reactor in the State. Though the Centre government has currently put on hold the proposal on a nuclear reactor, the BARC campus in Visakhapatnam will set up a research nuclear reactor. The research nuclear reactor will help young scientists and students of nuclear physics and chemistry for a hands-on training.
“There has been a proposal for a nuclear reactor in Andhra Pradesh. But it was met with a strong opposition. BARC will have its research nuclear reactor on its Visakhapatnam campus, which is fast coming up,” Dr V Venugopal, director of radiochemistry and Isotope Group, BARC.
He was addressing a group of 150 nuclear scientists and students of nuclear sciences at the inaugural of the 10th biennial symposium on nuclear and radiochemistry (Nucar – 2011) at GITAM deemed University here on Tuesday. Incidentally, the meeting coincides with the centenary year of the discovery of nucleus by Ernest Rutherford in 1911. Rutherford is regarded as the father of nuclear physics.
Emphasing the need for more nuclear energy to meet the acute electricity shortage in the country, he said India had a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power program to produce 20,000 MW nuclear energy in the next nine years, and 40,000 MW by 2032.
Dr Venugopal said the Central government would set up a global center for nuclear energy partnership in New Delhi to strengthen the country’s cooperation with the international community in the areas of advanced nuclear energy systems. Work on the proposed India Neutrino Observatory in Madurai will begin soon and once it is completed scientists will take up study to find out the origin of matter. It is a Rs 1,000 crore project.
Prof P Rama Rao, chairman of the Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences, Department of Atomic Energy, said his board had been continuously supporting research works in various universities and research institutions. He said Indian universities, particularly deemed universities, had been performing well thanks to the autonomy they enjoy. Referring to the nuclear programme, he said scientists in India were capable of handling challenges.
Earlier, the organizing committee of NUCAR-2011 honoured two eminent nuclear scientists. Dr RH Iyer, former head of radiochemistry division, Barc, received Dr MV Ramaniah Life Time Achievement Award, while Dr SV Narasimhan, power chemistry scientist from Barc, got Dr KS Venkateswarlu award.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever: Hospitals ill-equipped to meet disease outbreaks

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 20: Hospitals in India are ill-equipped to tackle cases of highly infectious Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever, if the disease breaks out here. Worse, most of the doctors are unaware of the clinical manifestation of CCHF and perhaps none of them ever had a direct interaction with a CCHF patient.

"We studied about Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever in one of our microbiology lessons. But I have never come across with a CCHF patient in my career so far. If our doctors were to admit their knowledge about this fever, I am sure none of them will be able to diagnose a CCHF patient in one sitting," an expert in internal medicine attached to a corporate hospital said.

CCHF is an exotic disease capable of spreading fast through body fluids from person to person. However, its transmission from animal to humans is through tick bite. An infected person is then capable of spreading it to others through body contact and body fluids. It is such a dangerous disease that the National Institute of Virology has warned that any serum samples from an infected person collected by hospital should be sent through a three-level isolation box to NIV, Pune, for confirmatory diagnostic tests.

Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever was first diagnosed in 1944 in Ukraine. Though it has been causing havoc regularly in different parts of the world, CCHF was not reported in India till December 2010. Early this month, the disease was diagnosed in Ahmedabad and so far it had claimed three people, including two medical staff.

Given its high infectious nature and the regularly movement of large number of people between Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, doctors and health experts fear that any outbreak of CCHF in Hyderabad will throw the city into a sort of medical emergency. Most of the hospitals do not have special isolation wards fulfilling the WHO standards for Congo fever patients.

Says senior physician Dr Aftab Ahmed, "dealing with CCHF will be a challenging task. Since it is a viral disease, antibiotics do not work and the treatment has to be supportive. What matters is early diagnosis of the disease to save the life of the patients, as India has many tropical fevers. It has one of the highest mortality rates with 40 per cent of patients succumbing to it".

Doctors at the government-owned Sir Ronald Ross Institute of Tropical and Communicable Diseases (Fever Hospital) also admit that they do not have WHO-standard isolation ward to deal with Congo fever cases. "As of now we don’t have any isolation ward to deal with Congo fever cases. We haven’t received any guidelines from the State government about the ailment and the ways to deal with it," says a medical officer.

According to National Institute of Virology, an individual is said to be suffering from CCHF if he manifests an acute febrile (fever) illness, with bleeding/haemorrhagic manifestations or acute unexplained death, plus at least one of the following: (a) tick bite in the previous three weeks, (b) contact with livestock in the previous three weeks and or (c) direct physical contact (in the home or in a healthcare setting) or contact with bodily fluids of someone with a similar illness in the previous three weeks.

ends/syedakbar/7.40 pm

Box item

The NIV has suggested the following precautions for hospitals and individuals to prevent spread of CCHF.


1. Isolate the patient in a room separate from other patients in the hospital

2. Medical staff handling the patient should wear gloves and a gown, to avoid direct contact with the patient.

3. After handling the patient, medical staff should thoroughly wash hands, as well as any other parts of their body that came in contact with the patient, with soap and water

4. Clinical procedures that are likely to cause spraying of bodily fluids should be avoided or only performed by medical staff wearing a face shield, or a mask and eye goggles

5. Bleach can be used for disinfection. A 1:100 dilution of bleach should be used to clean surfaces, medical equipment, and bedding and clothes. A 1:10 dilution of bleach should be used to clean up bodily fluids. Alternatively 5 per cent Lysol may be used.


1. Family members and friends who had direct contact with the patient should be monitored for 14 days, for onset of a febrile illness.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

ICMR prepares India's first national health research policy

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 17: The Indian Council of Medical Research is involving the common man in framing the country's first ever national health research policy to meet the fast changing medical and health scenario.

Though the ICMR has devised the national health policy a decade ago, it has thus far not concentrated on the research aspect. People can have their say in the framing of the national health research policy by sending in their suggestions to the ICMR before February 25. Once the policy is in place, health researchers and planners will get a new set of guidelines to meet the challenges of new infections and pathogens.

"In the last three decades as many as 30 new infections have been reported from different parts of the country. In the absence of a national health research policy, there's no targeted research in the country. Our health policy-makers wake up only when there's an outbreak of a new diseases, like in the recent case of Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever," says Dr MN Khaja, senior researcher in genetics.

According to the ICMR statistics, only a handful of medical colleges in the country have really contributed to the medical and health research. Much of the published research is not on priority health concerns. Epidemiological know-how, surveillance technology and diagnostic services, which are essential for determining health priorities, are poorly developed.

Most of the scientific institutions in the country do not have proper uniform regulations, strict ethical norms and transparency, standard  methodology and international standards of research, points out health researcher Dr V Srinivas. The new health research policy will help evaluate diagnostics and trials of drugs, identify priorities for effective and ethical health research, and encourage indigenous production of diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics, and medical devices.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Medical negligence at its heights: Hospital throws patient into coma, serves Rs 3 crore bill

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: “The dedicated team of doctors, nurses and philanthropists serve people with uncompromising dedication. It seeks to build a bridge between needy patients and the fast moving medical technology of the third millennium. In a country where thousands die each day due to their inability to access an expensive health care system, (we seek) to advance the frontiers of specialised medical care…” boasts the Mumbai-based Lilavati Hospital in its introduction to prospective patients.
Going by the hospital’s tall promise of philanthropy, how much do you think the authorities would charge from a patient, who slipped into coma due to negligence of its medical staff? Rs 10 lakh, Rs 50 lakh or Rs 1 crore? Hold your breath, Lilavati believes Rs 3 crore is not a huge bill to be served on the family of the coma patient, who has been undergoing treatment for the last two years for no fault of hers.
The hospital has slapped a bill for Rs 3 crore on the family of Nazma Alam Khan of Hyderabad. Nazma slipped into coma minutes after she was administered anaesthesia for hysterectomy at Lilavati hospital in September 2008. Ever since she has been in what doctors call vegetative state. It was a clear cut case of medical negligence but the hospital has been issuing bills at frequent intervals much to the chagrin of her family. 
The last time the hospital served a bill was for Rs 1.5 crore. The latest bill is reportedly for Rs 3 crore. Nazma’s family including son and daughter have been put to a lot of mental agony in the last two years and the now the bill for Rs 3 crore has only further compounded their suffering.
Nazma’s family members are not willing to talk about the case. But it is learnt that they are fighting a legal battle against the hospital authorities for medical negligence. Thanks to the legal battle, the hospital has been providing treatment to the patient, though it has been serving exorbitant bills occasionally. The family has reportedly refused to pay the bill as the hospital is at fault.
Efforts by this correspondent to contact the authorities at Lilavati hospital failed. The telephone operator, after keeping on hold for 10 minutes, said the superintendent was busy and could not be contacted.
Nazma Alam Khan’s unfortunate episode has triggered medical debate not only on the need for safe anaesthesia practices but also the need for strong legislation on medical ethics and patient’s rights. Strangely enough the government has double yardsticks for hospitals run by it and by private individuals or corporate bodies. One can bring pressure on the government and seek disciplinary and penal action against doctors and other medical staff involved in medical negligence, besides seeking monetary compensation, if something goes 
wrong in government hospitals. But in the case of private hospitals, one has to go through the long process of fighting it out legally in a consumer court. Unless medical negligence is proved by the complainant, consumer courts cannot deliver justice to the victim.
“This is a complete case of medical negligence on the part of the treating doctors, especially the anaesthesia team of the hospital,” argues Dr Ramesh Reddy, chairman of Andhra Pradesh Medical Council. The Council is empowered to derecognise doctors under its jurisdiction in cases of proved medical negligence.
Stating that a healthy woman goes for a routine hysterectomy and slips into coma after anaesthesia, Dr Ramesh Reddy said had she developed post operative complications and been a diabetic, things would be different.
“The hospital authorities have absolutely no right to charge Rs 3 crore as medical bill. Her family can either approach consumer forum and file a petition, or approach Maharashtra Medical Council and based on prima facie negligence on part of the treating doctors, a petition can be filed for violation of code of medical ethics. Post enquiry by a team of experts from the MC, if negligence is proved, a criminal case can be filed 
under Section 304 of the IPC,” he adds.
The Indian Medical Association too found fault with Lilavati hospital for charging exorbitant fee. Says Dr E Sai Prasad, honorary secretary-general, Indian Medical Association, AP chapter, on humanitarian grounds in such cases, hospital should not have charged such an exorbitant amount.
“There is no justification in keeping a family in mental agony for such a long time and give them daily hope when there has been no improvement in the condition of the woman. Instead of the hospital, the patient could be shifted to home and kept under the care of nurses,” Dr Prasad observes.
The Consumer Protection Act defines medical negligence as a failure to exercise reasonable skill and care in diagnosis and treatment as per the prevalent standards as that particular point of time.

Rights of Patients
===============The World Health Organisation has recognized patient’s rights as part and parcel of human rights. Supreme Court has declared that medical treatment is a service and hence falls under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. As consumers, patients or their relatives have every right to demand information from the doctor/hospital concerned.
1. Patient has the right to information. He must be told about all the facts regarding the illness, the procedure to be undertaken and the risk involved, if any
2. Patient has the right to access his or her medical records, investigative reports etc.
3. Patients enjoy the right to know about the doctor or doctors attending him or her, like doctor’s qualification, whether any case of medical negligence is pending, doctor’s expertise in the given field and the number of successful and failed cases. In USA hospitals make it a point to include medical negligence cases, if any, in the profile of their panel doctors.
4. Patients enjoy their right to confidentiality about their treatment and the medical problem.
5. Patients have right to compensation in case of medical negligence.
What was the case
Nazma Alam Khan was admitted to Lilavati Hospital for hysterectomy in September, 2008.
She slipped into coma after she was given anaesthesia. The doctor who gave her anaesthesia reportedly committed suicide two months later.
Nazma’s family filed complaint with the Mumbai police, following which the hospital reportedly agreed to provide free medical treatment till she recovers.
The hospital failed to keep up its promise of free treatment. Much to the shock of Nazma’s family, the hospital served a bill for Rs 1.5 crore within six months of the anaesthesia going wrong. The family decided to fight it out legally and contested the bill.
Last week the family got bill for Rs 3 crore.