Skip to main content

We are in a much better position than in the past' 9downtoearth)

Why have so many zoonotic diseases appeared in recent years?

There are many reasons. Many viruses and pathogens are crossing into human habitat. Human-animal interaction has increased. Deforestation is a major reason for this, as animals and vectors in deep forests have now come into contact with human beings. Also, with globalisation, people are travelling more and meeting those who are not immune to new viruses. Climate change is also allowing vectors to expand to areas where they were not previously found and could not survive.

Is India prepared to deal with new challenges?

Definitely. We are in a much better position than in the past. There is a network of laboratories under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) which is working on animals and another set under ICMR working on human zoonotic diseases. There is a joint committee which meets every few months. We fund joint efforts and share pathogens for further study. A good instance of this collaborative effort was when we collaborated and worked on CCHF (Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever). We screened a large number of domestic goats and sheep and found antibodies to the CCHF virus in 8-10 per cent of them. We also found that this virus had caused serious disease in humans in Gujarat in 2011. But, there are a lot many new challenges as diseases are constantly emerging.

There are reports about Zika vaccines being planned in India?

Yes. Bharat Biotech Ltd has claimed about having two Zika vaccine candidate constructs in the lab. Basically, they have prepared two different type of viral constructs. We are going to constitute a committee and invite them for more information. They need to conduct pre-clinical and animal studies first. Subsequently, human trials will be conducted, if found promising and safe.

Which kind of research is going on regarding the Zika virus?

Right now, we are focusing on surveillance. In the future, we should increase our focus on drugs and vaccines and for this, we are ready to partner with anyone. However, this is not a sustainable solution for a disease like this. For that, we have to deal with mosquitoes, especially the Aedes Aegypti which is evolving. This is a tough task and neither government nor society can deal with it alone. Both have to come together to handle it, as mosquito control needs everybody’s participation. There are also scientific advances like gene editing technology ("gene drive") and these should be explored for mosquito control possibilities. At the moment, they are in the research arena.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

Cloud seeding

Demonstrating the function of the flare rack that carries silver iodide for cloud-seeding through an aircraft. 
Water is essential for life on the earth. Precipitation from the skies is the only source for it. India and the rest of Asia are dependent on the monsoons for rains. While the South West Monsoon is the main source for India as a whole, Tamil Nadu and coastal areas of South Andhra Pradesh get the benefit of the North East Monsoon, which is just a less dependable beat on the reversal of the South West Monsoon winds.

India’s criminal wastage: over 10 million works under MGNREGA incomplete or abandoned (hindu)

In the last three and half years, the rate of work completion under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has drastically declined, leading to wastage of public money and leaving villages more prone to drought. This could also be a reason for people moving out of the programme.

At a time when more than one-third of India’s districts are reeling under a drought-like situation due to deficit rainfall, here comes another bad news. The works started under the MGNREGA—close to 80 per cent related to water conservation, irrigation and land development—are increasingly not being completed or in practice, abandoned.

Going by the data (as on October 12) in the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, which tracks progress of MGNREGA through a comprehensive MIS, 10.4 million works have not been completed since April 2014. In the last three and half years, 39.7 million works were started under the programme. Going by the stipulation under the programme, close to 7…