Monday, March 31, 2008

Heredity: Stomach ulcers pass on from parents to offspring

March 31, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Stomach ulcers caused by the notorious germ that lives in the belly, Helicobacter pylori, are hereditary in nature. If parents suffer from gastric ulcers there's every likelihood of their children too inheriting the trouble.
The Centre for Liver Research and Diagnostics, Hyderabad, headed by eminent gastroenterologist Dr CM Habeebullah, has found that Helicobacter pylori transmits from parents to children. Both environmental and hereditary routes are suggested for the transmission from one generation to another in the family.
Says Dr Khaja Shakeel Ahmad of CLRD, "there's a relation between a history of ulcer and Helicobacter pylori infection in his or her family. This shows genetic factors play a role. The transmission is also due to common environmental factors that influence susceptibility to infection".
Helicobacter pylori infection is present in almost all patients with duodenal ulcers and gastric ulcers. The pathogenic role of Helicobacter pylori in peptic ulcer disease is well known. Up to 95 per cent of patients with duodenal ulcers, and 80 per cent of patients with gastric ulcers suffer from this infection.
The CLRD study was carried out in South Indian population, which is at high risk of stomach cancer. "We assessed the relationship between subjects with a history of gastric or duodenal ulcer and the risk of infection in their offspring with the help of
PCR assay targeting the 16S rRNA gene. The 16S rRNA gene is a highly specific target for amplification and has been previously of help in reclassifying the organism," Dr Khaja Shakeel Ahmad said.
The CLRD team interviewed the subjects referred to for upper gastrointestinal endoscopy at Deccan College of Medical Sciences and Research Center, Hyderabad, to find out whether their mother or father had been referred for endoscopy with the same symptoms or any history of ulcer.
The questionnaire sought details on risk factors for Helicobacter pylori infection, such as housing conditions, family demographics and socio-economic factors. "By 16S rRNA amplification, the status of Helicobacter pylori was confirmed," he said.
As many as 160 patients were enrolled in the study, of which 70 reported a parental history of ulcer, and 90 were without any history of ulcer. Of the 70 patients 14.2 per cent were Helicobacter pylori negative and 85.7 per cent were positive. In those with no family history of ulcer, the prevalence of the bacteria was 80 per cent and 20 per cent negative.
"The results propose the hypotheses that the transmission of Helicobacter may be influenced by the presence of ulcer or that the bacterial strains causing peptic ulcer may be more infective than other strains as published in earlier studies. This may be because of the relation between a history of ulcer and Helicobacter pylori infection in his or her family or due to common environmental or genetic factors that influence susceptibility to infection," he said.
Dr Khaja attributed the high prevalence of Helicobacter pylori infection in subjects with no family history of ulcer to their living conditions, socio-economic factors and cultural background.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Indians are less sensitive to touch

March 26, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 25: Indians are less sensitive to touch than other populations in the world.
The touch sensibility thresholds recorded in a large group of Indians, particularly from Hyderabad, are higher than that reported from Westerners. A research study conducted by the clinical and epidemiology division of Blue Peter Research Centre, LEPRA Society, Hyderabad, showed that the touch threshold values of Indians were, however, closer to reports from Asia.
Indians show a tendency to increased loss of touch sensibility as they age. "Touch sensibility testing is a cost-effective, psycho-physical measure of peripheral nerve function and impairment. However, there is limited information regarding the natural variability in touch sensibility across different populations and different age groups. This prompted us to take up the study," says senior scientist Dr Indira Nath, who led the research.
Gender taken alone did not show a relationship with the level of sensory perception, she said adding that "of interest is our observation that gender contributed significantly when the subjects were stratified on the basis of age."
As part of the study as many as 568 healthy Indian volunteers without any clinical evidence of peripheral nerve disease were enrolled. Touch sensibility was evaluated bilaterally in palms, feet, and heels with target forces ranging from 0.008 to 300 grams per millimetre.
"No differences were observed between the right and the left limbs. The lowest target force detected ranged from 0.4 to 2 grams in the palms and 1.4 to 15 grams in the feet. These values showed further increase with age. Women compared with men had higher sensibility in the palms in most age groups. Touch sensibility thresholds recorded in a large group of Indians were higher than that reported in other populations," Dr Indira Nath said.
These findings have clinical implications for the diagnosis of early nerve
impairment in the elderly and in disease states drawing attention to geographic variations in touch sensation. Data was collected on 15,903 sites on the palms, feet, and heels of the subjects. In general, the palms showed the highest and the heels the lowest sensory perception with the feet showing intermediate values.
The scientists observed an interactive effect of age and gender. Palms of
females had
lower touch sensibility thresholds compared with the males in all the age groups. The higher tactile threshold seen in the feet compared with the palm may also be due to the thicker layer of keratin seen in plantar skin or due to ethnic factors and cultural habits of walking barefoot. The plantar surfaces showed more variations than the palms at individual sites, but this was not significant.
"We also found that the heel area showed the greatest intersite variation and was the least sensitive, perhaps due to its load-bearing functions. Paradoxically, the plantar surface of men appeared to be more sensitive than women in general. Whether this was due to greater access of men to footwear compared with women could not be confirmed definitively," she said.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Oils with EFA reduce the risk of heart attack

March 24, 2008
By Syed Akbar
The very mention of cooking oil sends shivers down the spine of people who are “health conscious”. But health experts and researchers argue that not all the oils are bad. Oils that contain essential fatty acids are not only good for health but also prevent certain dreaded diseases including those related to heart.
A right blend of cooking oils, if consumed regularly, will keep at bay a variety of health complications and problems like diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke cancer and high blood pressure.
According to a study conducted by city-based research scholar UN Das of ICICI Centre for Technologies in Public Health, major health issues like coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease and depression schizophrenia can be controlled using oils containing essential fatty acids.
These essential fatty acids and their derivatives include eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, gamma-linolenic acid and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid.
“The major determinants of these chronic diseases are tobacco smoking, inadequate physical activity, unhealthy diets, overweight/obesity, and suboptimal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and plasma glucose.
Essential fatty acids are important constituents of all cell membranes and alter membrane fluidity and thus, determine and influence the behaviour of membrane-bound enzymes and receptors. EFAs are essential and they are not synthesised in the body. They have to be obtained in diet,” he says.
Essential fatty acids play a significant role in collagen vascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome X, psoriasis, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, depression, CHD, atherosclerosis, and cancer, he said adding that in all these conditions, plasma and tissue levels of fatty acids are significantly low compared to normal suggesting that EFA deficiency either predisposes or initiates the onset of these diseases.
The study pointed out that patients with AIDS and intravenous drug abusers have low plasma phospholipids DGLA, AA and DHA concentrations that could favour the onset and development of the dreaded disease.
Dietary intake of poly unsaturated fatty acids from infancy reduced the risk for type 1 diabetes. Increasing concentrations EFA/PUFA in breast milk reduced the risk of mother-to- child transmission of HIV.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tamarind good after fever, helps fight paracetamol poisoning

March 22, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 21: Just recovering from a bout of fever? Eat preparations containing tamarind like pulihora and you will be cleansing your body of the poisonous paracetamol traces that had accumulated in your body during medication.
According to a study conducted by the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, tamarind has properties that will remove the ill-effects of large doses of paracetamol, the medicine that is commonly prescribed for fevers.
Tamarind contains anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-malarial and antioxidant properties. Since large doses of paracetamol cause acute dose-dependent necrosis (death of living cells) in both animals and human beings, the antioxidants present in tamarind inhibit the dangerous oxidative changes involved in paracetamol-induced toxicity, says Dr MJ Patil, who led the research
As part of the study, the IPSR team used male Wistar rats weighing between 150 and 200 grams and divided them into control and paracetamol-treated groups. Paracetamol caused acute liver damage in rats fed with large doses. The trend reversed after they were fed with tamarind extracts.
The hepatotoxicity (liver poisoning) caused by paracetamol has been attributed to the formation a highly reactive chemical formed in the process of its breaking down by the liver. The results showed that tamarind extracts (from fruit, seed as well as leaves) caused significant decrease in liver toxicity. It also reduced the bilirubin (a digestive enzyme secreted by liver) level and increased the secretary mechanism of
liver cells.
"It has been established that since barbiturates (medicines that act on brain) are metabolised exclusively in the liver, the sleeping time after a given dose is a measure of liver functioning. If there is any pre-existing liver damage, in this case paracetamol-induced toxicity, the sleeping time after a given dose of paracetamol will be prolonged because the amount of hypnotic broken down per unit time will be less.
The ability of tamarind extracts to reduce the prolongation of sleeping time in rats is suggestive of the liver protection potential of these extracts," he said.
The study of the liver cells of the rats revealed that the necrosis was reduced to a few inflammatory cells in the animals treated with tamarind. Inflammation of portal veins was also reduced.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke: The end of an era

March 20, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, the man who saw tomorrow and treated the world in early 1940s with a virtual feeling of satellite communication decades before it became a reality, is no more. He passed away in his “adopted” country Sri Lanka at the ripe age of 90, leaving behind a legacy of science fiction, which held the young and the old alike in awe and reverence. With his death a glorious era of science fiction has come to an end.
Arthur C Clarke was arguably the greatest sci-fi writer of modern times. He was an inventor and great humanist too. Together with HG Wells and Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clarke formed the trilogy of visionary science fictionists, who captured the imagination of the common man with predictions that appeared quite simple, yet hard for scientists to accomplish.
Some of Arthur Clarke’s predictions have become a fact of our daily life now and the world waits with eagerness for other predictions too to come true soon. For, he had prophesised a world of peace, comforts and safety, including travel to the outer world standing or sitting on elevators with much ease. After all who does not want to travel beyond the Earth and explore what lies out up there in the azure sky?
As sci-fi writer par excellence, Arthur Clarke could paint on the vast expanse of his mind the ideas that even great scientists failed to conjure up in their big brains. The space travel of Arthur’s imagination that began in 1968 with the “2001: A Space Odyssey” continued via “2010: Odyssey Two” and “2061: Odyssey Three”, before concluding with “3001: The Final Odyssey”.
He predicted how one day computers would interact with man, dinosaur-servants would be quite handy, extending man the much-needed support, and how man would be able to climb up the sky through giant elevators fixed at the Earth’s equator. The dinosaur support will be nothing short of the genie of Aladdin’s magic lamp that comes with no
strings attached.
His marvelous achievement notwithstanding, Arthur Clarke was quite a simple and humble man that he did not see his great predictions as great. In fact, he hated the term, “prediction”, and loved to use the word, “extrapolation”. He used to say quite often, “If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative”. But scientists vouchsafe that Arthur Clarke’s predictions are not conservative and indeed hard, if not impossible, to accomplish.
He foresaw man meeting intelligent creatures from other planets and stars by 2030 and scientists discovering the secrets of immortality by the fag end of this 21st century.
Arthur Clarke had been living in Sri Lanka for more than 50 years and had survived the 2004 devastating Tsunami, though his diving school bore the brunt of the nature’s fury.
His residence in the island nation is a sort of electronic cottage with all types of modern gadgets that enable him to keep touch with the scientific community the world over, despite his confinement to a wheel chair for more than three decades. He suffered from childhood polio. His foundation named after him functions from Washington DC and Arthur Clarke used to operate it electronically sitting back in Sri Lanka. The United Kingdom, his mother nation, honoured him in 1998 with the
knighthood recognising him as one of the pioneers of science fiction in English, and his adopted nation Sri Lanka described him as “an asset to the nation”. Three months before his death, Arthur Clarke said he would like to be remembered most as a writer, “one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well." He cleared his last publication, The Last Theorem, only recently and breathed away before it could be published.
Even before he began writing books in 1950, he used to discuss his ideas and theories with a group of dreamers, which met to find out whether it was possible to send man to the Earth’s natural satellite, the Moon. Initially, he limited himself to non-fiction describing the early space flight, but he did not look back after he shifted his focus to science fiction.
If there were any popular author, who had bridged the gap between arts and sciences, fiction and non-fiction, theories and realities and the present and the future, it was Arthur Clarke. It was also he who told the humanity that there’s a world beyond the confines of the Earth (of course, he loved to call the Earth, an Ocean because it’s all of water and water and less of land).
And it is for us all to explore and give a new meaning to our life. Good bye, Sir Arthur C Clarke, Good bye.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cleft palate: Sanskrit helps speech therapists

March 17, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Sanskrit, the mother of most Indian languages, is unique in the sense that the arrangement of alphabets is orderly and scientific. No other language has sounds (phonemes) that are quite simple and easy to remember.
People suffering from cleft palate or cleft lip find it hard to produce sounds.
The evaluation of their speech is very difficult if such individuals speak any language other than Sanskrit.
Senior scientist Gajiwala Kalpesh has carried out a research on Sanskrit phonemes and how they help cleft palate surgeons to evaluate the speech of people with cleft palate deformity. In people suffering from cleft palate, the palate or the roof of the mouth is not joined together. It has a gap in between making it hard for such people to utter sounds.
Kalpesh has demonstrated through his study the inherent advantage of the arrangement of Sanskrit alphabets to effectively analyse defective cleft palate peech. "Sanskrit provides a tool for surgeons to decide a course of action in their routine clinical practice. Improved insight into the speech defect by the surgeon also facilitates better coordination with the speech language pathologist in assessment and treatment of a child with cleft palate," he points out.
In most languages, phonemes are learnt through the arrangement of alphabets. In English, for example, written symbols A to Z represent most, if not all, phonemes. Some of the phonemes require a combination of these alphabetical symbols like 'ch' as in church, 'th' as in thought. The problem is all these alphabets are not pure phonemes, but a combination of a consonant and a vowel.
He says the arrangement in other languages is haphazard, with vowels and consonants intermingling at irregular intervals. And there is no reason for a particular arrangement of alphabets. They are as if picked at random and strung together. Therefore, one must make a special effort to memorise each and every sound individually vis-à-vis its character regarding voicing, place and manner of articulation.
Kalpesh says after cleft palate surgery, a plastic surgeon usually leaves the development of normal speech to a speech language pathologist, who is expected to work wonders in post-surgical therapy. Quite often the surgeon does not realise the implications of speech evaluation, which states the presence of misarticulations, with or without hypernasality.
"Sanskrit is a valuable tool for evaluating cleft palate speech. Not only are the vowels and consonants separated, but also Sanskrit consonants are pure phonemes and are arranged in vertical and horizontal groups according to the voicing state, manner of articulation, place of articulation and the intraoral pressure required to produce them. Understanding the arrangement of alphabets in relation to all these therefore takes away the major burden of memorising them at random. The arrangement of Sanskrit alphabets is called Varnamaalaa or the garland of phonemes. It may be
called the oldest phonetic classification known to humanity."
According to Kalpesh, the time required to utter sounds increases as one goes downwards on the Sanskrit chart. This means that one is required to sustain some intraoral pressure and airflow for a longer duration in forming sibilants.
So, when there is velopharyngeal incompetence, it will be more difficult to sustain the airflow and air pressure for a longer duration in sibilants.
"Varnamaalaa helps us find our way through the maze. The Sanskrit chart can provide a simple tool for added clinical evaluation and may help decide the course of action for both the surgeons and linguists together. Surgery alone cannot improve speech, but speech can improve with speech therapy," he argues.

Heavy metals pollute Hyderabad and its suburbs

March 19, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 18: Rapid industrial and urban development in and around Hyderabad has taken a heavy toll of soils in neighbouring Ranga Reddy district with heavy metal contamination.
This is the first time that heavy metals have been found in considerable quantities in parts of Ranga Reddy district. A study by the city-based National Geophysical Research Institute revealed that soils in Ranga Reddy district are polluted by heavy metal, which are dangerous to the health of human beings and animals. Besides industrial growth, extensive use of agrochemicals in the last several decades has led to the accumulation of these metals in the surface soils, between 5 cm and 15 cm.
"These metals can infiltrate through the soil thereby causing ground water pollution," the study conducted by D Sujatha points out.
Heavy metals have a density of at least five times that of water and thus cannot be metabolised in the body. They go on accumulating in the body leading to major health problems. They affect mental functions, kidneys and lungs.
As part of the study, surface soil samples were obtained from south-eastern part of Ranga Reddy and analysed for the presence of 14 heavy metals like arsenic, barium, cobalt, chromium, copper, molybdenum, nickel, lead, rubidium, strontium, vanadium, yttrium, zinc and zirconium. The contamination of the soils was assessed on the basis of enrichment factor (ratio of metal), geoaccumulation index, contamination factor and degree of contamination.
The results reveal that variations in heavy element concentrations in the soil analysed have both geogenic (natural) and anthropogenic (human) contribution, due to the long period of constant human activities in the study area.
"The concentration of the metals like barium, rubidium, strontium, vanadium, yttrium and zirconium are interpreted to be mainly inherited from parent materials (rocks) and arsenic, cobalt, copper, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, lead and zinc concentrations show contribution from geogenic and anthropogenic sources. The major element variations in soils are determined by the composition of the parent material predominantly involving granites," the NGRI study said.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Toilet seat 400 times cleaner than desktop

March 12, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Which is cleaner, telephone receiver or toilet
A toilet seat is about 400 times cleaner than the desktop and several hundred times cleaner than the telephone receiver.
According to Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, physician-surgeon and popular science author from Australia, in terms of bacteria per square inch, telephone receiver is the filthiest with 25,127 bacteria per sq. inch. This is followed by the desktop at 20,961, the computer key board at 3295 and the computer mouse at 1676. The least contaminated surface was the toilet seat with only 49 bacteria per square inch, making it about
400 times cleaner than the desktop.
"For bacteria the desk is really the laptop of luxury. They can feast all day from breakfast to lunch and even dinner. Your desk is the second `germiest' place in the office," he says.
Explaining why the toilet seat is always the cleanest site, Dr Karl, who is currently in Hyderabad to popularise science and clear "myth conceptions", said the toilet seat is too dry to provide a good home to a large population of bacteria. "If you went to the trouble of using their sponsor's antibacterial wipes in toilets, you could drop the bacteria count by about 99.9 per cent".
Referring to lie-detectors and truth serum tests, Dr Karl says an innocent person is at more risk of being caught by lie-detectors and truth serum than professional criminals and habitual liars. "There's no truth in truth serum and lie-detector is a great lie," he points out. Since these equipment work on the heart beat and breathing of a person being subjected to such tests, an innocent person develops anxiety and the results become positive, he said in an exclusive interview with this
One of the great summer myths is that a fan will cool a room. A fan cannot cool a room. It can only cool the people who are sitting in the room.
"Think about a day when the air is cooler than your skin. On average, your body generates about 100 watts of waste heat (about as much as a light bulb). If there's no wind, this heat creates a thin layer of warm air that sits next to your skin. Once this layer has warmed up to skin temperature, it becomes a very good heat barrier. Heat cannot pass into this layer from your skin, because heat cannot normally travel only from a hot place to a cooler place. As your skin temperature increases, you begin to feel uncomfortable. The only way out of this cycle is to
move around, or to sweat. But when a fan blows wind across your skin, it pushes away this warm layer of air and you will feel cooler."
He also clears the popular myth that people will lose eye sight if they look at the sun during eclipses. During eclipses the sun does not emit new and strange forms of damaging radiation but continues to squirt out what it always has.
"But many people when given the chance never enjoy the free cosmic thrill of a total solar eclipse, because they believe the myth that looking at a solar eclipse or even being outdoors when it happens, will make you go blind. In fact a total eclipse of the Sun can be pretty harmless.
However, a partial eclipse, however, is far more dangerous as the sun still emits 99 per cent of its light."
And what about the so-called diet soft drinks? Aspartame, the common sweetener in low-calorie diet drinks, has not had an easy run since the FDA approved it in 1981. Aspartame is produced by combining two amino acids. These amino acids are, like the other 18 or so common amino acids, found in the proteins we eat as part of our regular food intake.
Some studies show that diet drinks with artificial sweeteners can stimulate the appetite, thus defeating the whole purpose of the diet drink.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Homoeopathy: Just don't dump alternative medicine

March 10, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 9: Complementary and alternative medicine plays its own role in controlling diseases and keeping the nation healthy. One should not dub these alternative systems of medicine as "fake" or "unscientific" without making a proper scientific study and assessment of their role in disease treatment. The importance of complementary and alternative medicine more popularly known as CAM in the West is
growing by the day as more and more patients are showing interest in it.
Health experts in the city are of the view that "when so many people use alternative treatments and derive benefit, it is not correct to lump them all together and throw them out".
But what is needed is that CAM should be studied in a proper scientific manner to know how exactly the alternative system of medicine works. Once such a scientific basis is established no one will ever dare to dub CAM as useless, they point out.
Not only in India but also in the USA and the UK, CAM is increasingly becoming popular. If statistics are to be believed more number of US and UK citizens are adopting CAM than Indians (percentage wise), where the CAM actually had its origin. The more popular CAM systems in India are Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha, besides
On the other hand, CAM in the West parlance comprises acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine and Homoeopathy or any diverse group of treatments, ranging from symptomatic interventions to be used in conjunction with allopathic therapies. Interestingly more and more patients are looking towards CAM to avoid chemotherapy and surgical procedures. Even taking a specific dietary supplement to lower blood
pressure or blood lipid concentrations also forms of CAM.
Studies reveal that nearly 33 per cent of patients in the USA use CAM therapy in conjunction with allopathy. For patients in the West, leading CAM therapies include natural products, meditation, chiropractic and massage.
"Symptoms most commonly treated with CAM therapies are musculoskeletal, respiratory and psychological symptoms," experts say.
Unfortunately, CAM therapies are generally not covered by medical insurance companies. Only a select few CAM treatment procedures fall under the purview of mediclaim policies. Despite being not covered under mediclaim, CAM therapies are increasingly becoming popular as patients are willing to pay from their pocket to keep themselves healthy and sound.
The major problem with CAM, as Dr Douglas Kamerow, former US assistant surgeon-general, says is the nature of CAM treatment. "They can be hard to quantify and hard to specify, and often they do not lend themselves to stand research techniques such a placebo controlled trials. I think a sensible approach is for doctors to inquire of patients what non-traditional treatments they are using, both for conditions that
the doctor knows about and is treating and for others that have not been dealt with. This will at least allow discussion and investigation of possible adverse interactions," he says.
Moreover, doctors should discuss truly complementary symptomatic CAM treatments for chronic pain, allergies or the like so that their scientific basis can be investigated and understood by the patient and the doctor, if possible. Alternative treatments for serious or life threatening diseases such as cancer, doctors should assess the scientific evidence for the treatment and try to understand the range of benefit the patient expects to receive from it, Dr Douglas suggests.

The truth about cosmetic surgery

March 10, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 9: "The desire to look better, younger and attractive to the opposite sex is what can be achieved by various cosmetic surgery procedures," says an advertisement of a hospital dealing with so-called cosmetic surgery.
No doubt, every person has a right to look good, but is cosmetic surgery needed for all to pep up one's image? "No", say senior doctors.
"Cosmetic surgery is needed for those in the glamour industry. After all fair image is their bread and butter. But does a physician or a teacher or a shop-keeper need cosmetic surgery? The need for cosmetic surgery arises only in the case of
deformities. Not everyone requires it," they argue.
Cosmetic surgery should not be confused with plastic surgery. While the former is performed to "pep up" the image, plastic surgery deals with rectifying natural deformities.
Cosmetic surgery, particularly the breast enhancement one, is wrought with
complications. The surgical results are not as rosy as they are projected by doctors. The usual complications include skin death or necrosis, asymmetry, slow healing, permanent loss of sensation and skin irregularities. Skin death may follow
an infection or hematoma and is much more likely among smokers. In such cases the skin is excised affecting the cosmetic outcome.
A second cosmetic surgery is required in case of moderate to severe asymmetries. If the cosmetic surgeon errs, the person undergoing cosmetic treatment may actually end up with skin irregularities, dimples, puckers, and divots. Fluid can collect
under the skin and can occur after breast augmentation, liposuction or a
tummy tuck.
However, not many know about the complications the cosmetic surgery throws up. Often the patients are kept in the dark by unscrupulous doctors or hospitals. Statistics show that about 20 per cent of women and five per cent of men in India undergo some kind of cosmetic enhancement procedures during their lifetime. And the percentage is increasing in India.
They point out that plastic surgery is needed in cases of commonest birth defects or congenital deformity involving paring or cleft of the upper lip on either or both sides, cranio facial defects, defects of ears or limb deformities. Facial
enhancement, however, is waste of money for those who actually do not require it.
India, moreover, does not need a large number of cosmetic surgeons. What the country really needs is general physicians, experts in cardiology, general surgery, neurology and other specialised areas where the country is behind other developing

Vitamin supplements are harmful

March 10, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 9: Vitamin and antioxidant supplements do more harm than good. In fact, daily consumption of vitamins and supplements from artificial (pharmaceutical) sources may lead to dangerous health complications including cancers of lung.
City health experts argue that what is prescribed as daily dosage of vitamins and minerals is actually sufficient for a month. "We require vitamin and mineral supplements in minute quantities. The dosage is often more than what is required. This unnecessary intake of vitamins is not good for people," they say.
Almost 10 per cent of Indians take supplements of antioxidant vitamins and trace minerals. Often, the consumption is based more on prescription by physicians. Vitamin supplements are, in fact waste of money and invitation to needless health complications. A well-balanced food contains all that's essential for the healthy living of an individual. Nature simply takes care of all human, animal and plant requirements through its natural sources. Only in extreme cases do human beings need these supplements.
Studies on the efficacy or otherwise of vitamin supplements in different parts of the world including India reveal that supplements containing vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and selenium in any dose and in any combination will not help people live longer, or at least a healthier life.
What is horrifying is that these supplements actually increase the mortality rate, i.e. taking people closer to death.
"A study in the US showed that the relative risks for all cause mortality
ranged from 1.04 for vitamin E to 1.16 for vitamin A. Typically, the least
rigorous trials reported the most positive effects," they said.
Conservative research studies estimate that antioxidant supplements
increase mortality by about five per cent compared with placebo. Higher
intake of Vitamin E supplements do not protect against lung cancer, and
may in fact increase the risk of developing it.

Doctor-drug firm nexus robs patients

March 10, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 9: Doctors get more than what you pay as consultation fee
every time you visit them.
They get commission from pharmaceutical companies for prescribing their
products, including those which are classified as "irrational" medicines.
The "commission" or "gift" is directly proportional to the number of
prescriptions the doctors write a month. The higher the number of prescriptions, the more the valuable the gift is. There are instances of drug companies luring doctors with cars and expensive cell phones or even "bearing" the tuition fee of their
children. The expenditure they incur on gifts is made up in the form of higher MRPs for the medicines.
Such doctor-drug firm nexus is limited not just to a "poor" nation like India. But it extends to highly developed and "rich" nations like the USA and the UK too.
The Indian National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health conducted a study some time back on how pharmaceutical companies hustle their products. Its report revealed
that doctors are prescribing drugs that are "irrational or non-essential or (even) hazardous." Taking a close look at India's 25 top-selling medicines, the Commission's study found that 10 of the 25 fell into that category.
Even if pharma companies do not offer direct incentives to doctors, they make up the shortfall in their relationship through sponsoring medical conferences or continuing medical education programmes. Health experts say, "medical conferences are unfortunately becoming into a sort of melas. The presence of drug industry is felt everywhere at the venue, from their advertisement on the walls to offering free lunches and gifts".
"The drug industry, immensely powerful and profitable, spends more than 11 billion US dollars each year in promotion and marketing. It has succeeded in tightening its grip over the medical community over the last two decades. It tempts doctors by such offers as expensive gifts and foreign junkets, which often leads to the unscientific, costly and irrational use of drugs," points out Dr SP Kalantri, associate editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics.
In a bid to check the doctor-drug firm nexus which is taking a heavy toll of the patient's pockets, the World Medical Association has come out with a set of guidelines for its members all over the world.
The guidelines suggest that no individual doctors should receive direct
payment from commercial companies to cover travelling expenses, room and board at
a conference, or compensation for their time. Drug companies should have no influence on the content, presentation, choice of speakers, or publication of results.
The names of any companies providing financial support should be publicly disclosed.
Funding for a conference can be accepted as a contribution to the general costs of the meeting but not as payment for any specific lecturer or participant. Physicians should not accept gifts, hospitality, services, and subsidies from industry if acceptance might diminish, or appear to others to diminish, the objectivity of
professional judgement.
But are doctors listening?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Rajiv Gandhi International Airport: Speed bumps to airport

March 9, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 8: It's utter chaos and confusion. With just a week left for
the new international airport at Shamshabad to become commercially operational, things do not appear as bright as they are projected.
First traffic chaos rules the connecting roads. Secondly, passengers, particularly domestic, are confused. Thirdly, low-cost airline operators are unhappy fearing loss of domestic business. And finally, pilots and airline crew find it really tiresome to report for duties at the new airport, 35 km away from their residence back in Hyderabad.
GMR Group, which executed India's first private-public partnership airport, may hail the Shamshabad airport as the best in its class in the country, but the changeover does not appear to be a smooth affair. The new airport may provide one of the best world class infrastructure for both domestic and international passengers, but to avail of such facilities the travelling public need to spend a few hours more, travelling more than 30 km through bottlenecks and dug-up roads.
Come March 16 and Hyderabad will get India's newest airport with a runway extending to more than four km facilitating quick landings and takeoffs. The flight delays may become a thing of the past and the passengers be able to reach their destination in time. But the only hitch is the road connectivity.
Though the State government is working over time to provide one of the best road connectivity for air passengers, procedural delays have come as a major hurdle in early completion. As things stand today, passengers will have to negotiate through traffic chaos for at least one year. The PVN Expressway is way behind schedule and is unlikely to be completed before May next year.
Apart from traffic problems, passengers will have to put up with confusion for at least a couple of months, till they get used to the fact that the airport had been shifted from Begumpet to Shamshabad. The GMR Group has made arrangements for passenger pick-ups but does not guarantee quick service as it cannot vouchsafe for free movement of vehicles. It's for the traffic police and the State government to act on this count.
If one leaves these initial hiccups behind, the facilities that are being offered
at Shamshabad are truly of world class. For the first time, the airport will have a real duty free shopping arcade. The retail offer in the international terminal will comprise a total of three stores, covering 2,500 sq mts. One of these stores is a 1,277 sq mts arrival store. Domestic retail will consist of three stores and a total of 310 sq mts.
Moreover, Rajiv Gandhi International Airport will have world class food and beverage counters in the arrival, departure areas and the airport village, a new concept being introduced for the first time in India. International brands like HMS Host, Blue Foods Private Limited, Café Coffee Day, Hard Rock Café and Cookie Man will be serving the passengers at the airport.
As the GMR Groups gets ready for the grand opening of the airport, several groups have advocated that the present airport at Begumpet could be utilised for domestic and short-distance services. Officials, however, point out that this is not going to be economically feasible and only add to the confusion of passengers. Those coming to Hyderabad from small cities to board international flights will have to face the additional problem of changing from domestic to international airports, 35 km apart.
The new airport, it is argued, has been developed keeping in mind the future demand of Hyderabad, which is all set to become an international hub in south east Asia. The present problems are just temporary and as the outer ring road and expressway become operational, the sailing, nay flying will be a smoother affair.

Cancer Atlas: Indian women more prone to cancers

March 9, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 8: Women are at more risk of developing cancers than men,
says a study conducted in major cities across the country.
The lifetime risk of developing 10 major cancers in India is 0.04 to 2.4
per cent for women and 0.05 per cent to 0.95 per cent for men. The study conducted by
health experts L Satyanarayana and A Smita based on the data collected from the
National Cancer Registry Programme of India showed significant increasing trends
for breast, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of white blood cells), gallbladder, thyroid and ovary cancers among women. The cancers of cervix, mouth, stomach, oesophagus and tongue showed a reverse trend.
In the case of men, there is increase in the incidence of cancers of white
blood cells and prostate, but decline in stomach, liver, hypopharynx and tongue cancers. Oral cancer in men and breast cancer in women dominated major cancer sites
(types) in Hyderabad. Oral cancer accounted for 25 per cent of all cancers among
Hyderabadi men. Breast cancer made up 35 per cent of all cancers in women. Increasing
trends were observed in oral cancer, throat cancer and lung cancer among men while
there was a declining trend for cancers of colon, rectal, oesophageal, prostate and
Breast cancer overtook the cancer of cervix among women in Hyderabad. "There's a clear-cut 10 per cent difference between breast and cervix cancers in Hyderabad. Better sanitary practices have led to the decline in the cancer of cervix," explains Dr Vijay Anand Reddy, director of Apollo Cancer Hospital.
The study included 10 major cancers of breast, cervix, tongue, mouth, oesophagus,
stomach, gall bladder, ovary, thyroid, NHL for women and lungs, hypopharynx, liver,
larynx, tongue, mouth, oesophagus, stomach, prostate, NHL for men. Like in Hyderabad, Bangalore too recorded high incidence of breast cancer, but in the case of men there was decline in mouth cancer.
However, cancer of cervix dominated all cancer types in Chennai among women. There
is decline in the cancer of cervix but increase in the cancer of breast. Among men
significant increasing trends were observed for oesophagus and prostate cancers.
Both breast and cervical cancers top the list among women in Mumbai and Delhi. Lung
and oesophagus cancer top the list among men cancers. "The chance of developing breast cancer is higher in Delhi compared to other cities, with the risk of 1 in 40 women likely to develop the disease in her lifetime.
Next to breast cancer was cancer of the cervix, which was high in magnitude, with 1 in 60 women on an average with chance of developing cancer, in different cities," point out Satyanarayana and Smita.
Lung cancer among men occupies the third position in most of the Indian cities, with 1 in 180 males at risk of developing this cancer in his lifetime. Mouth cancer showed
declining trends in Bangalore in both the sexes. Chennai also observed significant
declining trends for this cancer type in females, whereas Delhi showed an increasing
trend in mouth cancer among males. This might be due high tobacco usage in this
region, they added.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Indo-US nuclear deal: Mulford sets June deadline

March 8, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 7: US Ambassador to India David C Mulford said on Friday that the US government was not "pushing" the Indo-US civil nuclear deal on India, but he sets a deadline of June.
"I do not want to comment on the political process in India. We are not pushing the deal. We are only explaining the time table. We want to make it clear that there's misunderstanding," Mulford told a select group of reporters here.
Mulford is currently in the city to review the arrangements for the proposed US consulate in Hyderabad, and participate in a private programme on the eve of the International Women's Day organised by Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences and Usha Vijaylakshmi Foundation. He is accompanied by his wife Jenny Mulford.
He said the US was for early signing of the agreement to gain the international approval through the IAEA Board of Governors, the Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as the US Congress to bring it to operation before the term of the Congress ends. "We have Presidential elections later this year.
There's a timeline and things have to start happening now," he said adding that the political process is late. The US Ambassador made it clear that his government would not interfere in the internal politics. "We respect the Indian political process. But the deal has to be in place by June so that the US Congress can act on it," he said.
Referring to the proposed US Consulate in the city, Mulford hoped that it would process about a lakh visa applications a year. "It's pretty good business," he added.
The Hyderabad office will provide full range of consul services. In future it may handle some of the diplomatic services now being looked after by US embassy in New Delhi. "We have 23 federal government representatives dealing with different subjects in New Delhi. Some of these entities can be brought to Hyderabad. I do not know which will come first," he said.
He said the Hyderabad consulate would be ready in October-November this year, though technically it's already operational. It would be pretty large in the next five years. The Hyderabad office will have 14 to 15 visa windows and substantial staff. It will be a full-fledged consulate.
To a question he said there was no decrease in business visits to the US following depreciation of US dollar. He said the US embassy in India had processed 7,25,000 visa applications last year. The US mission in India stands at No. 2 after Mexico and 65 per cent of H1B visas issued in the world are from India. "We expect there will be 20 to 30 per cent increase in US visa applications," he said.
Mulford said the US mission in India had taken steps to reduce the numbers of days for visa interviews from 187 days in 2006 to 110 days now. The Hyderabad office will further bring down the waiting period since it will reduce the travel time to Chennai.
The US consulate in Chennai will be expanded as also the New Delhi embassy where there will be 50 visa windows.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Murky Politics: Babu rubs shoulders with BJP leaders

March 3, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 2: Former chief minister and Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu on Sunday rubbed shoulders with BJP leaders for the first time in four years after he dumped the BJP as a "communal" party pursuing a "dangerous cause".
Chandrababu Naidu also mobilised the support of the Left parties as well as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi for the Telugu Desam's maha dharna against "sale" of lands by the Congress government. The TD supremo shared the common dais with BJP State president Bandaru Dattatreya, CPI State secretary K Narayana, CPM senior leader YV
Rao and TRS official spokesperson V Prakash. They were together for more than four hours criticising Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy one after another.
The mobilisation of support of the Left and the BJP by the Telugu Desam gains political significance as the State Assembly elections are just 13 months away. Soon after the Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections in May 2004, Chandrababu Naidu cut off political and electoral relations with the BJP. A few months before the May 2004
polls, the Left parties deserted the Telugu Desam to join hands with the Congress.
Now that the Congress leadership including the chief minister has jumped into election mode, Chandrababu Naidu has been devising ways to come closer to the Left. With no positive signs coming from the Communists, he has now involved the BJP too in his campaign against the Congress.
"We have come together despite ideological differences for the cause of the poor. The Congress government sold away 30,000 acres of prime land in and around Hyderabad in the last four years. We will take back the lands sold by the government to industrialist and the rich. We will distribute them among the poor after we come to power in 2009," Chandrababu Naidu said.
Later Chandrababu Naidu along with Dattatreya signed a "declaration" warning that after they come to power they would take back lands sold by the Congress regime.
The sharing of dais by the Communists and the BJP is not unexpected.
Chandrababu Naidu personally coordinated the dharna and informed the two ideologically opposed political parties to share the platform "for the sake of people".
"We know that the BJP is participating. But it is issue-based. Whenever some major public issue crops up, we do not hesitate to share the platform with other political parties," YV Rao said.

IICT develops nasal insulin using nanotechnology

March 3, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 2: Researchers at the city-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have developed a method for delivery of insulin through the nasal route using nanotechnology with 98 per cent success rate.
This will put an end to daily painful insulin injections. Since insulin is delivered through nose using very minute or nanoparticles, the delivery is quite effective without side effects.
Scientists the world over have been researching on alternative delivery systems for insulin for diabetics who need daily insulin intake from outside. Several methods including oral and nasal routes have been developed but most of them have been provide ineffective and with side effects.
A team of IICT researchers from the pharmacology division including AK Jain and PV Diwan developed muco-adhesive nanoparticles that could be an exciting prospect for trans-nasal insulin delivery, as they have higher surface area to cover highly vascularised nasal absorptive area providing a greater concentration gradient.
The team prepared starch nanoparticles by different cross linkers using various methodologies and loaded them with insulin. Emulsion cross linked particles are smaller in size compared to the existing gel method. The team successfully reduced the size further using epichlorohydrin as cross linking agent.
Nanoparticles of epichlorohydrin emulsion were further optimised with variable cross linking to evaluate the effect of degree of cross linking on in vivo (animal subjects) performance.
In the laboratory tests (in vitro), a size dependent first order diffusion controlled insulin release with an initial burst effect was found. It is higher
with nanoparticles of small size and least cross linking.
The IICT's formulation sodium glycocholate showed a superior hypoglycaemic (lower sugar levels) action compared to other nanoparticles formulations.
"The hypoglycaemic effects were more pronounced with medium cross linked nanoparticles, which showed a nadir of 70 per cent reduction of plasma glucose and significant effects until six hours," they pointed out.
The peak plasma insulin level of IICT's formulation vindicates the pharmacodynamic effect, which was fo und to be superior compared to all other formulations. The release rate and higher associated surface area might work in tandem, and could be greatly amplified when combined with permeation enhancers to make starch nanoparticles an efficient trans-nasal muco-adhesive carrier of insulin.

System developed to identify new mosquito species

Syed Akba
Hyderabad:  The city-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology has developed a system to identify newer species of mosquitoes that cause malaria and filaria.
The system based on artificial intelligence is accurate and helps in rapid identification of mosquito species to enable public health planners and medical experts to take up vector control measures. Mosquito is a vector and transmits harmful organism from one person to another. Timely recognition of new species of Culex (filaria carrying mosquito) and Anopheles (malaria transmitting mosquito) will help in better planning to counter the type of diseases they transmit.
Mosquitoes are responsible for the death of one quarter of humanity since the advent of man on the Earth. Early and fast identification of newer species of disease-conveying mosquitoes will help in controlling dangerous ailments like malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis and filariasis.
The IICT's mosquito identification programme is an online expert system which helps not only in vector identification but also in disease management. It produces a "decision tree" for identification of common Culex and Anopheles species of mosquitoes.
At present pictorial keys of mosquito species are used for identification of new mosquito species. However, this old approach is not very effective, according to Dr US Murthy.
Vector identification is a basic preventive strategy to control mosquito borne diseases. Generally, experienced taxonomists are involved in the identification and characterisation of disease-causing mosquito species. "However, identification of mosquito species using visual inspection of pictorial keys is time consuming and error prone. Hence, it is desirable to have a computerised mosquito identification system for the accurate identification of unknown species," he points out.