Syed Akbar Hyderabad: Next time you order for a glass of fruit juice or soft drink dispensedthrough soda fountains in a multiplex or fast food centre, make it sure you are notcompromising on your health. Fountain-dispensed soft drinks and fruit juices mixed withice could be a potential source of harmful bacteria including coliform responsible foruncontrolled diarrhoea and vomiting. The microbiology laboratory of the city-based National Geophysical Research Institutecollected as many as 16 samples of fruit juices, ice and unbottled fountain-dispensedsoft drinks from shopping malls, cinema halls and fast-food centres managed bymultinational firms, and analysed them for the presence of coliforms. A majority of thesamples had harmful bacteria that could cause severe health complications in people with compromised immunity and sensitive digestive system. Soft drink manufacturers supply concentrate, which is mixed with water and carbondioxidefor dispensing through soda fountains in shopping malls, multiplexes and fast foodchains. "The purity or otherwise of the unbottled soft drinks served through sodafountains depends on the water mixed. If the water is contaminated, the trouble begins.No one is sure about the purity of the water used. The machine has to be cleaned at regular intervals to keep it germ-free," said NGRI-CSIR senior scientist Dr AM Dayal. Dr Mohammad Abdul Rasheed, incharge of the microbiology lab, said they had adopteddifferent microbiological methods to evaluate the safety level for human consumption ofsoft drinks and street-vended fruit juices. "Our study has confirmed the presence ofpathogenic bacterial counts in significantly high numbers in juices containing ice. Thosewithout ice showed least contamination. Contamination is mainly due to poor quality ofwater used for preparation of ice, unhygienic conditions and bad sanitation on thepremises," Dr Rasheed pointed out. Besides Dr Dayal and Dr Rasheed, Dr Veena, Ms M Lakshmi and Ms K Deepti are part of theteam that analysed the samples. Though the NGRI researchers could not find muchcontamination in soda fountains in the city, a similar study conducted in the USA lastyear revealed the presence of E coli in well known brands of beverages. The US study based on 30 samples collected from soda machines found a possible faecalcontamination of soft drinks. E coli lives in the human digestive system and its presenceelsewhere signifies mixture of the sample with human faeces. When almost half of the softdrink samples in the USA had coliform bacteria, one can imagine the level ofcontamination in India, a country known for compromised hygiene. According to NGRI scientists, bottled aerated soft drinks could be relatively safer thanthe fountain-dispensed ones as the pressure of carbondioxide and the acidity levels inbottled beverages prevent growth of harmful bacteria. The rubber tubing in the sodafountain if not cleaned properly at regular intervals could turn out to be the breedingground for infection-causing bacteria. "The main culprit in most of the cases is the ice, because of the type of water used andthe way ice blocks are broken to pieces. "Street vended fruit juices are not recommendedfor human consumption as they are contaminated by various sources," Dr Rasheed warned.
Syed Akbar Hyderabad: Kadapa, notorious for bombs and bloodshed, will soon become the newestdestination for exploration of oil and natural gas in the country with the NationalGeophysical Research Institute discovering hydrocarbons in the Kadapa (Cuddapah) basin. Joint studies by the city-based NGRI and the Directorate-General of Hydrocarbons, Noida,have established the hydrocarbon resource potential of the Kadapa basin. Kadapa basin isan ancient geological structure with rich resources of oil and natural gas, and it couldwell become the next destination for hydrocarbon exploration in the State afterKrishna-Godavari basin. Presence of natural gas and oil is detected by several methods. The NGRI employed"adsorbed soil gas" methods as well as the presence of bacteria to find out hiddenhydrocarbon resources. Light hydrocarbons like methane, propane, ethane and butane comeout of the soil either in large or minute proportions. If the leakage is in large quantities it can be identified easily. But in most of thecases the gases coming out are in small quantities which cannot be identified. However,in such cases certain bacterial groups live there eating these gases. The presence ofthese bacteria in large groups signifies that hydrocarbons are hidden underneath theearth. The NGRI studied the soil samples and took up adsorbed soil gas and microbialstudies in Kadapa basin to establish the presence of oil and natural gas. "The adsorbed soil gas studies and the inferences from geological, geophysical and othergeochemical data, suggest that the demarcated areas around Nandyal and Koilakuntla may bepotential for future hydrocarbon research and exploration. The Kadapa basin hashydrocarbon resource potential and efforts are on to conduct close sampling in theanomalous hydrocarbon zones," said Dr AM Dayal, head of the department of Stable Isotopeand Surface Geochemical Prospecting for Hydrocarbon, NGRI. Kadapa is an epicratonic Proterozoic basin situated over a length of 440 km and a widthranging from 150 km to 200 km. The Kadapa basin covers an area of 44,500 sq km extendinginto the districts of Kadapa, Kurnool, Anantapur, Prakasam and even Raichur in Karnataka. The NGRI-DGHC teams collected 304 soil samples with spacing of four to five km alongcertain roads in the basin. Analysis showed 87 per cent of soil samples fall in the oilzone and remaining in the gas-condensate zone, Dr Dayal said. Sample points with higher concentration of methane (more than 35 ppb) are clusterednorth-northwest and southwest of Nandyal and south-southwest of Koilakuntla with a fewscattered anomalies all over the study area. The hydrocarbon anomalies obtained in thesoil samples near Nandyal correlate with the good sediment thickness in the range of 6000to 9000 metres for the Nandyal shale, which is considered as an ideal cap rock andpotential target for petroleum exploration. Frequently occurring carbonaceous shales with strong microbiotic content at differentstratigraphic levels like Vempalle, Tadipatri, Cumbum and Pullempet formations alsoindicate petroleum source rock potential of the basin, Dr Dayal said. The structures likesynclines, anticlines, fault closures in the Kadapa basin play an important role inhydrocarbon generation and entrapment.
By Syed Akbar Hyderabad, May 10: The germ that has been causing regular outbreaks of cholera inHyderabad is a new mutant of cholera bacterium, and if it is not checked it will furtherspread in the environment posing severe health threat to people. A team of researchers from Defence Research and Development Establishment, Gwalior,collected contaminated water samples from Hyderabad and subjected them to bacteriologicalanalysis. The results showed that the regular outbreaks of cholera in twin cities iscaused by altered El Tor bacteria. El Tor bacteria is a new strain that has evolved from the classic cholera bacteria,Vibrio cholerae. This El Tor bacteria has further changed its character to become alteredEl Tor bacteria. Though altered El Tor bacteria has been isolated in Hyderabad, it ispresent in other places too. What causes concern to health planners and medical researchers is that altered El Torbacteria is adaptive to environment as well as toxigenic in nature. Normal or classiccholera bacteria (Vibrio cholerae) is toxigenic but does not survive in atmosphere forlong, while the normal El Tor bacteria is not toxigenic but survives in environment. Incontrast, the altered El Tor bacteria - isolated in Hyderabad - has both the properties i.e toxic and adaptive to environment. "Outbreak due to such bacteria should be controlled well in time to prevent furtherspread in the environment," warns Dr AK Goel of Defence Research and DevelopmentEstablishment. "In Hyderabad study, cholera El Tor bacteria with classical strains were reported. Thisshows that now bacteria are more toxigenic and more adaptive to environment. However,such bacteria have been reported from different parts of country. This shows how bacteriacompete in the environment for better evolution," he told this correspondent. Dr Goel, however, clarified that the altered El Tor biotype has nothing to do with NDM-1or drug resistance. The world has faced seven cholera pandemics affecting million andmillions of people. Initial six pandemics were caused by a Vibrio cholerae strain, whichbelonged to classical biotype. Classical strains are more toxigenic but less adaptive toenvironment. Subsequently, in seventh pandemic, the classical strains were replaced by El Tor biotypestrains, which are less toxigenic but more adaptive to environment. In the newmillennium, the bacterium again started modifying itself to attain the features of bothbiotypes. This new germ is responsible for cholera outbreaks in Haiti late last year.
By Syed Akbar Hyderabad, May 11: It was a deadly cocktail of poisonous heavy metals and dangerouscoliform bacteria that was responsible for the Bholakpur tragedy involving 16 deaths andhospitalisation of over 500 people in May 2009. Residents consumed water containing coliform bacteria 24,000 times in excess of thepermissible limit. The heavy metal toxicity only added to the bacteriological problem,making it further deadly. Thus far, it has been believed that the deaths were only due tobiological contamination. But chemical contamination too played its part. While there's little improvement in the sanitation even two years after the tragedy,water samples collected by the city-based microbiology laboratory of the NationalGeophysical Research Institute (NGRI-CSIR) revealed the presence of poisonous heavymetals and dangerous coliform bacteria far beyond the permissible levels fixed by theWorld Health Organisation. "There should be no coliform bacteria in potable water. But in samples collected fromseven sub-localities of Bholakpur, the bacterial count exceeded 24,000 per litre. In onesub-locality, the count was 11,000 per litre," NGRI-CSIR senior scientist Dr AM Dayaltold this correspondent. The NGRI-CSIR study, conducted by Dr Mohammad Abdul Rasheed, Mutnuri Lakshmi and Patil JDattatreya, has also found that the bacteria had adapted to the heavy metals. "Normally,bacteria die in the presence of heavy metals due to poisoning. But the presence of highquantity of heavy metals and exceptionally high number of coliform bacteria confirmedthat the cholera and gastro-enteritis causing germs have learnt to survive heavy metalpoisoning," Dr Rasheed and Lakshmi pointed out. Heavy metal poisoning coupled with the presence of coliform bacteria further increasedthe toxic levels leading to the 16 deaths and severe health complications in hundreds ofpeople. Incidentally, some of the toxicities caused by heavy metals and coliform bacteriaare similar and this led to a synergetic effect on the health of the residents. Thecommon symptoms are nausea, persistent vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. "The drinking water samples were highly contaminated with high numbers of coliforms andin addition increased concentrations of iron, lead, copper, nickel, aluminium and sodiumled to diarrhoeal outbreak in Bholakpur," Dr Dayal said, adding that pollution of wateris increasing alarmingly creating serious threat to human health. Samples were collected from municipal taps in Gulshan Nagar - I and II, Tazeer Nagar,Indira Nagar - I and II, Bangladesh market, and Mandigalli -I and II areas of Bholakpurin the city. The samples were compared with the water collected from the residentialquarters of NGRI employees. While the Bholakpur samples failed both chemical andbiological tests, there was no contamination in the NGRI water samples.
By Syed Akbar Hyderabad, May 9: Illiterate tribes like Chenchus, Yerukulas and Yanadis living deep in the jungles possess a mine of ethno-medicinal knowledge, most of which is not known to traditional Indian systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani. A research study by teams from the city-based National Institute of Indian Medicinal History and Sri Venkateswara University in the Rapur forest division of Nellore district, has revealed that traditional ethno-medicine is still practised by groups of tribals, who have no access to modern medicine. The medicinal properties of plants claimed by tribals are quite different from the medicinal properties mentioned in traditional Indian systems of medicine. With forest wealth fast depleting, there's danger of losing ethno-medicinal wealth of the country. Proper scientific evaluation of the claims of tribal communities will give a new meaning to the country's medicinal plants. "Many of the claims revealed by the tribes are new in comparison to Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani. We have documented the herbs being used by the tribes and their medicinal properties as claimed by them. This will help us to study further on individual plants to find out whether they are of real medicinal value, and if so, in what dosage and in what form it should be taken," said GP Prasad, one of the researchers. The teams, comprising M Neelima, G Sundarsanam, G Penchala Pratap and B Jyothi, found that the tribals living deep in the Rapur forest division have authentic information on medicinal values of the plant parts like leaves, fruits, flowers, seeds, stem bark, tubers and roots. They use as many as 61 species of plants as medicine in the form of paste, powder, juice, decoction and infusion in crude form with additives like ghee, sesame oil, cow urine, infant urine, cow milk and lemon. The health issues for which these herbs are used include skin troubles, jaundice, rheumatism, burning micturation, fevers, intestinal worms, menstrual problems, cough, diabetes, asthma, dandruff, insomnia, indigestion, constipation, cuts, wounds, sexual problems, fractures, ear-ache, eye diseases and scorpion and snake bites. Some of the plants are also used as antidote and as fish poison to kill fish in the ponds. "Tribals have good therapeutically valuable information for different ailments. The study has brought to light of unknown utilisation of 61 species of plants," he added.
By Syed Akbar Hyderabad: As many as seven Indian teams are participating in the final round of competition for the prestigious NASA mission aimed at mining precious elements on the moon and bringing them back to the earth. Of the 12 international teams selected by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, seven are from India, including one from Visakhapatnam. The Lunabotics mining competition will be held in the USA from May 23. The team from Visakhapatnam comprising students of GITAM University has prepared a robot that will crawl on the hostile terrain of the moon, picking up regolith (moon dust) and depositing it in a container for shipment back to the earth. But before selecting the robots for actual assignment on the moon, NASA will test their efficiency and durability in an artificial atmosphere resembling the lunar terrain. The task given to each of the teams is that their robots should collect and deposit a minimum of 10 kgs lunar simulant within 15 minutes "The regolith of the moon is said to contain previous elements including uranium and thorium of high nuclear grade. About 10 grams of uranium and thorium mined from the moon is equivalent to about a kg of the nuclear material found on the earth. NASA is looking at new technology that works with high precision and great durability," said Raj Kumar, a third-year student of mechanical engineering, GITAM university. Raj Kumar is one of the five-member student team of the university which designed the robot, called lunabot. NASA will directly benefit from the competition by encouraging the development of innovative lunar excavation concepts from universities which may result in clever ideas and solutions which could be applied to an actual lunar excavation device or payload. The challenge is for students to design and build a remote controlled or autonomous excavator. "The challenge is quite complex. It is not an easy task. The lunar simulant is highly abrasive. There are also limitations to the weight and size of the lunabot. Also, it is very difficult to control the lunabot from a remote control centre," pointed out another student Sai Suraj. Utilising the students' talent, particularly from India, which is fast emerging as a space giant, NASA plans to explore the mineral wealth of the moon, which is rich in oxygen, silicon, iron, calcium, aluminium, magnesium, titanium, chromium, manganese, sodium, potassium, nitrogen, sulphur, carbon, hydrogen, helium 3, uranium and thorium. The students said they had to cross many technical hurdles to design their robot as the lunar regolith has unique physical properties. The gravity is one- sixth of the earth's. The environment in the moon is a complete vacuum. Though NASA will immensely benefit from the students' technology and innovative ideas, it will offer just 5000 US dollars as the first prize.
Syed Akbar Hyderabad: The toothbrush may clean the teeth and gums, but it can be a potential source ofdangerous organisms including those that cause cholera, gastroenteritis, boils, infectionof the ear, eye and skin and typhoid, if it is not sterilized regularly. People, who have bathrooms with attached toilets, should be extra careful with theirtoothbrush as it can be contaminated by E coli, a bacterium that upsets the stomachleading to vomiting and diarrhoea. Even in bathrooms without attached toilet, severalbacteria like Streptococcus mutans, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas, Lactobacillus andKlebsiella, besides Candida can be present in sufficiently large numbers to create majorhealth problems. Dentists suggest that the toothbrush should not be kept in bathrooms for hygienicreasons. They should be kept separately in a clean place outside the bathroom. Thetoothbrush should be cleaned regularly with anti-septic lotions to kill the germs.Toothbrush sanitizers can also be used. They recommend change in toothbrush when a harddeposit is noticed on the toothbrush head, between the bristle tufts. As part of a research study, a team of dentists, collected 40 toothbrushes from bathroomsof various households. Twenty of them were from bathrooms with attached toilets, and therest from bathrooms without attached toilets. Of the 20 toothbrushes each, 10 were usedfor a month and the rest for a period of three months. “Micro-organisms were found in isolated form in toothbrushes used for one month, whereasin toothbrushes used for three months they are found in clumps. Hard deposit on thetoothbrush head between bristle tufts is the medium for growth of micro-organisms, whichnot only affects the oral health but also affects the general health of an individual,”pointed out Dr GN Karibasappa. The contamination of toothbrush could prove to be dangerous for people who are onimmuno-suppressant drugs, heart patients and those with compromised or low immunity. Lactobacillus causes the progression of the dental caries while Candida causescandidiasis. Pseudomonas is responsible for infections of ear, eye and urinary tract.Klebsiella is capable of producing septicemia, pneumonia, diarrhoea, urinary tractinfections.
Syed Akbar Hyderabad: Nearly two decades after it was conceptualised, common saltcontaining iron will soon be available in the market for mass consumption. The technology of fortifying common salt with both iodine and iron, developed by thecity-based National Institution of Nutrition, has been successfully tested in tribalareas where the incidence of anaemia and malaria is quite high. Backed by the successful results, the NIN has transferred the technology to saltmanufacturers, who will soon introduce the product in the market. In Andhra Pradesh, APFoods, a government-owned enterprise, will set up a plant at Visakhapatnam to producedouble-fortified salt. It will cost about Re 1 more. There's no change in taste or colour. As many as 20 dishes,both south and north Indian, have been prepared using double fortified salt to testwhether there's any change in their taste. "Developing salt with both iodine and iron has been a major challenging task before us.When iron is added to salt, the iodine leaves it, defeating the very purpose of doublefortification. Lot of research has gone into it and we have developed stabiliser toensure both iron and iodine stay in the common salt. Our studies have shown that theshelf life of double fortified common salt is more than one year," NIN director Dr BSesikeran said. Double fortification of salt is possible only if it is 98 to 99 per centpure. It does not work with crude salt. Double fortification of common salt has been necessitated to fight iodine and irondeficiency in one go. Though iodised salt has been made mandatory by the Centre, itcleared the proposal of double fortification only last week. Iron deficiency leads to amajor health problem called anaemia. Between 70 and 80 per cent of pregnant women, 50 to70 per cent of children, and 50 per cent of the general public suffer from anaemia. Anaemia or low iron content in the blood is responsible for reduced mental attention andlearning capacity, and physical weakness. "Vegetarian food is low in iron. High dietary fibre in food makes iron absorption in thebody very low. Since we cannot ask vegetarians to shift to non-vegetarian food, doublefortification of common salt will solve the problem. Studies on schoolchildren inRampachodavaram in East Godavari district have shown that despite high incidence ofmalaria, the iron content in their blood has increased," Dr Sesikeran pointed out. He said since NIN has transferred the technology free of cost, salt companies have agreedto supply 20 per cent of their produce to government at subsidised rates for distributionamong poor people. Excess intake of iron will not cause any harm, as the body has inbuiltmechanism to throw away excess iron through excretion.