Category Archives: Blogs

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it” - Robert Swan


India is the Global host for 2018’s World Environment Day and the theme this year is “Beat Plastic Pollution”. From pens and water bottles to replacement heart valves and aerospace mouldings, plastics are omnipresent. 500 billion plastic bags are used every year worldwide. Moreover, 50% of plastics we use are single use only. With 10 million tonnes ending up in our oceans every year, plastic pollution is the biggest threat to the environment right now.

 

Plastics clog the drainage system and pollute water bodies. They are responsible for the death of thousands of aquatic animals. Plastics partially breakdown to form smaller particles called as micro-plastics that are 5mm or lesser in size which are about the size of a sesame seed. These can easily enter into fishes and end up on our dinner tables. Computer models suggest that oceans hold as many as 51 trillion micro-plastic particles. WHO launched a health review after a study revealed micro-plastic content in 90% of the tested mineral water bottles collected from around the world. Microbeads, on the other hand, are tiny polyethylene plastic used as exfoliants in toothpaste and beauty products and can easily seep through water filters.

 

The use of microbeads in products was recently banned in the US. Laws affecting the end user is always more effective compared to those on manufacturers when it comes to plastic bags. Ireland, for example, introduced a tax for plastic bags, costing 33 cents (Rs. 26) and the usage dropped by 94% within weeks. In Rwanda (a developing country in Africa), smuggling of plastic bags can lead to imprisonment and is, therefore, plastic bag free nation since 2008. Sweden recently reached zero trash levels and generated revenue by importing plastic wastes from other countries due to their advanced recycling units.

 

India is emerging as a global leader in combating plastic pollution given that it has one of the highest recycling rates in the world. Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) a constituent of Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed a unique process that converts plastic bags to petroleum. This project is in the process of being commercialized. Rudra Environmental solutions in Pune has a setup that converts a ton of plastic cans to 600 litres of fuel, 20-25% synthetic gases and 5-10% residual char that could be used as road fillers. Innovations like these are essential for recycling of plastics and needs to be given much needed attention and funding by the Government. On a ground level, we can do our bit by opting alternatives of plastics in our daily lives.

Conservation over convenience is the only way to save our planet as we know it.

 

Written by:

Akhila M.P. is a research scholar in Yenepoya Research Centre. She is working on angiogenesis inhibition in Glioma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The WHO calls tobacco “the single most preventable cause of death in the world” and has specified 31st May every year as World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). This day primarily focuses on the risks associated with tobacco usage and aim to deliver the awareness regarding its harmful effects. The theme for this year is ‘Tobacco and heart disease’. WNTD is one of the most highlighted campaigns observed globally with an aim of enlightening people about the negative impact on healthy lifestyle. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the leading cause of mortality across the world which is triggered by the tobacco usage and passive smoke exposure accounting for 12% of cardiac-related deaths.

Tobacco use dates back to 1400–1000 BC where many North American tribes traditionally cultivated and consumed tobacco. Late 19th century witnessed rapid industrialization driven tobacco use which went on to be a commercial success and a major health revelation. Habitual addiction to raw tobacco and tobacco smoke is essentially due to the alkaloid ‘nicotine’ which causes both stimulant and relaxation responses by simultaneously causing the release of glucose from liver and epinephrine (adrenaline) from the adrenal medulla. The primary form of tobacco intake includes cigarettes, bidis, cigars, and waterpipes while the predominant mode of intake, especially in a country like India, includes smokeless or chewing tobacco.

Addiction to tobacco results in high incidence of cancer, emphysema, air pollution and ultimately death. Quitting usage of tobacco is one of the most important steps that can be embraced not only by youth but by every user to improve their health and thus, every day has to be dedicated to serving the purpose of No tobacco day in some way or the other. A public awareness can be created to portray and educate the people about its ill effects and arrange for centers for rehabilitating individuals who ruminate giving up on such addiction. Keeping in the mind the fact that “If we lose the battle against tobacco, we will lose the war against cancer”, this World No Tobacco Day, we must pledge to take a stand against the promoters of tobacco and keep sensitizing people regarding its harmful impact on health. Let’s Breathe life and Quit Smoking.
The third week of May 2018 started with a panic across the entire Kerala state because of the Nipah virus (NiV) outbreak which claimed 11 lives including a nurse who was attending one of the possible NiV infected patients at the local hospital. The family of the nurse decided to cremate her body instead of burying despite being a Christian to stop the spread of the deadly virus. Since then the state government is trying to make all the necessary arrangements to tackle the panic which is widespread across the state. The state government has also released emergency funds to restrict the virus outbreak and a team from National Centre for Disease Control (NCDS) is closely monitoring the outspread of the disease.

 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NiV infection is a newly emerging zoonosis with 70% mortality rate. Fruit bats are the natural host of NiV which belongs to Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus. There are also intermediate hosts such as plants and animals consumption of which spreads the disease among humans. The virus can be transmitted by consuming fruits eaten by infected bats and birds. Direct contact with infected bats, pigs and humans also lead to transmission of NiV.

 

The first cases of NiV infections were reported from the state of Perak in West Malaysia in September 1998 which had a major industry of pig farming. This lead to the culling of around 1.1 million pigs to control the outbreak. Later, the outbreak was reported in Bangladesh in almost every year from 2001 to 2013. In India, two outbreaks were reported in the eastern state of West Bengal, in 2001 and 2007 where the disease was contracted by consuming raw date palm sap contaminated by infected fruit bats urine or saliva. Initial studies have shown that NiV was reacting to the antibodies against the Hendra virus, however, later the viral genome was sequenced and showed around 20% difference from the Hendra virus.

 

The incubation time of NiV is 5-14 days and symptoms usually appear 3-14 days of exposure. The major symptoms of the infection are fever, dizziness, headache, and vomiting that often leads to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and coma. NiV also causes infection in pigs and other domestic animals. As of now, there is no vaccine available to treat NiV infection. Patients are generally treated by intensive supportive care.

 

Various environmentalists have claimed that the NiV was present in the bats for centuries, however, the major concern is that how the infection has been spread only recently. The rapid urbanization, as well as intervention of humans into the bat-inhabited regions, could possibly be one of the reasons of the NiV emergence. During the 2007 outbreak in West Bengal, it was reported by the healthcare workers that the horde of bats was found to be hanging from the trees around the patient’s residence which suggested the transmission of the virus from bats to humans.

 

Since there are limited treatment options, the focus should be on the prevention of NiV infection. People should be cautioned about not to consume the fruits that have fallen on to the fields especially in those areas which are inhabited by bats. Drinking of toddy brewed in open containers near palm trees should be avoided. Domestic animals which can also be carriers of NiV should be kept indoors since they can consume the partially eaten fruits often dropped by fruit bats. Maintain a distance from the patients so as to avoid ingestion of droplets when they cough or sneeze and also avoid sharing of food, bed, and clothes. The recent source of an outbreak in Kerala could be attributed to the bats which had taken shelter in a well of one of the diseased patient. So one should avoid drinking water contaminated by the excrements of pigs and bats. And more importantly, healthcare workers who are in close proximity should wear proper gloves and masks while treating patients with NiV infections.

 

Written by:

Saketh Kapoor is a Graduate student at Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University).

“Technology and social media have brought power back to the people” - Mark McKinnon


 

In this era of technology telecommunication services are almost omnipresent. May 17th of each year is celebrated as the World Telecommunication Day by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to raise awareness on the possibilities of use of Information and Communication Technology (which includes the Internet). The theme for World Telecommunications Day for this year as proposed by the ITU and is “Enabling the positive use of artificial intelligence for all”.

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is nothing new to the world. Its origin can be traced back to the Second World War era which saw Allen Turing’s Turing machine or Turing test as the first serious proposal introducing the idea of AI. AI is all about training a machine to learn, analyse, think and make a decision like humans albeit at a far greater speed. This teaching-learning process resembles the ancient school of Indian materialism called Charvaka. These teaching-learning processes will be executed using machine learning (ML) and deep learning algorithms. Even though most of the people think that ML (supervised and unsupervised learning) and AI are the same; they are different in that, the ML is an instrument in the symphony of AI. The AI is becoming increasingly popular and permeating into many diverse and often complicated fields.

 

AI is already being used in many real life scenarios like security surveillance, music and movie recommendation services, online customer support, purchase prediction, fraud detection, video games, smart cars and a lot more. AI-based diagnostic or pre-diagnosis tools and research equipment are also being introduced to medical research. However, the Indian scenario with respect AI research and applications are meagre when compared to the other countries in the world.

 

According to the study of Analytics India Magazine conducted in 2017, including data analytics or data science industries, More than 800 companies in India claim to work on AI in some form or the other. However, India accounts for just 6% of global AI companies. Scopus Analysis shows, about 70% of the AI research is conducted by non-Indian companies headquartered in India. The Google and the IBM have published almost 62% of all industry research publications, while Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is the only Indian company appearing in the top 10 with 13% of all publications.

 

To give a boost to the AI research, Govt. of India has started the first AI research institute named Wadhwani AI in Mumbai. This institute will focus on ways to harness the power of AI to solve deep-rooted problems in education, healthcare, agriculture and infrastructure and thereby, accelerate social development.

 

With the tremendous potential that this technology holds, it is for us to encourage and adapt to it in a good way to make our day-to-day life better.

 

Written by:

Parameshwar R. Hegde is a research scholar in Yenepoya Research Centre. He is working on Artificial Intelligence. Currently, he is working on "Diagnosis of skin disease using image features".

 

 

"What you have learned is a mere handful; What you haven't learned is the size of the world"    - Avvaiyar


Malaria is a major global mosquito-borne infectious disease. According to WHO’s World Malaria Report 2017; it was responsible for nearly 445,000 deaths. With 260 million new cases reported in 2016; its incidence has seen an increase of 5 million cases from over 2015. India is one of 15 countries in the world to have the highest cases of malaria and deaths due to it. According to National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), 88,911 new cases have been reported till now in India. WHO reports that Malaria occurs in much of the tropical and subtropical regions of 91 countries and areas with malaria transmission. Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium, and these parasites are transmitted only by the females of approximately 460 Anopheles species. However, only 30 - 40 species transmit malaria to humans by the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes.

Five different species of Plasmodium that can cause malaria in humans are Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium knowlesi. Among these; P. falciparum and P. vivax cause the highest mortality. P. vivax causes significant morbidity and mortality especially in children and poses unique challenges for malaria control and elimination. The 48-hour asexual replication cycle in the bloodstream is responsible for the mortality and morbidity due to malaria. Severe cases and deaths due to P. vivax have been reported from all endemic regions.  Mangaluru of Dakshina Kannada district is an endemic region of malaria. In 2015 Dr Prakash, state nodal officer declared that Mangaluru is a malarial capital of Karnataka and the contribution of this district to the total malaria cases reported in Karnataka is a whopping 57%. 88% of these cases are reported in Mangaluru city alone as per the recent data of 2014 though there was a slight decline in malarial incidence in 2018.

Until now, there is no vaccine against malaria but Primaquine is used for treating P. vivax liver stages (hypnozoites and schizonts). Primaquine has a unique and powerful role in the prevention and cure of malaria. It is the only FDA licensed drug that can destroy all liver stages of the parasite. However, it can produce serious side-effects like hemolytic crisis which requires the screening of Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency before administering the drug.

An alternative way of reducing the burden of malaria would be the development of an effective vaccine to target pre-erythrocytic stages of malaria; the stage of infection that involves only a few parasites and is completely asymptomatic. Such vaccine can also prevent relapsing infections. One of the most effective experimental vaccination generated by irradiation strategy against P. falciparum and P. vivax infection is the use of live attenuated sporozoites. These are effective in inducing complete immune protection by their ability to mount humoral and cellular immune responses against the sporozoite and the liver stage of the parasite. This method of vaccination was recently tested against P.vivax and it showed remarkable protective efficacy in rodent model. Thus, identifying and understanding the key processes like regulation of structure and function of Plasmodium species by proteins can provide us important insights about potential targets for anti-malarial drug discovery.

 

Written by:

Rex D. A. B. is a graduate student at CSBMM, Yenepoya Research Centre. Apart from spending most of his time in delineating the role of IL-33 and IL-1 beta signaling pathways, he is an avid reviewer in International Journal of Cardiology – Elsevier, OMICS and PubMed indexed journals.

 
We can find breathtaking moments in every day of our life; the birth of a first child, the view from the top of a mountain, a roller coaster ride. But with asthma; our breath is taken away from us. There are 300 million people worldwide who suffer from asthma. World Asthma Day is organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) since 1998 to improve asthma awareness and care around the world.

Asthma is a heterogeneous clinical syndrome affecting the lower respiratory tract. It presents as episodic or persistent symptoms of wheezing, dyspnea, air hunger, and cough. Symptoms may be exacerbated by exposure to allergens and irritants, viral and bacterial upper respiratory tract infections, sinusitis, intense physical activity, and cold air. Tobacco smoke is a common exacerbating factor in patients with asthma. These triggers can result in swollen airways and tightening of the muscles around the airways making it difficult to breathe. Nocturnal symptoms indicate more severe disease and cause awakening in the early morning hours (for those with a normal diurnal schedule). The clinical presentation of asthma is variable with respect to severity, underlying pathogenic mechanisms, quality of life, and response to treatment.

Even though asthma can develop at any age; its onset is more frequent in childhood and young adulthood. Heritable factors for developing asthma include genes regulating IgE-related mechanisms, glucocorticoid response, airway smooth muscle development, and components of the immune system (HLA-G). It is diagnosed by assessing the clinical history and breathing tests. No permanent cure has been discovered yet. However, it can be controlled by medications and effective management through holistic approaches such as Yoga.