Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Cola and Health: ICMR to study health problems of soft drinks


May 27, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 26: The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is gathering information from scientists and research institutions across the country on the
ill-effects of consumption of soft drinks, carbonated water and beverages on the health of people.
This is the first-ever major exercise taken up by the MoHFW on soft drinks in the backdrop of research reports by various laboratories that consumption of soft drinks
and carbonated water is deleterious to the health of people, particularly children. The MoHFW has entrusted the task to the Indian Council of Medical Research. Research laboratories and scientists, who have done work on soft drinks, may send in their data to ICMR by this month-end.
"Since, this issue is of national importance and in the public interest, scientists from all over the country are requested to share their, if any, published/unpublished
data/study with us (the reference of the published paper). If you are currently carrying out any study in the related field, you may send us the same," says Dr GS Toteja, senior scientist at ICMR.
Dr Toteja told this correspondent that the ICMR had already received 120 research papers and they are looking for more such studies so that ICMR could prepare a
comprehensive report. "This is a major exercise. Based on the papers and data presented to us, we will come out with a comprehensive report. A committee of experts will go through the papers," he said.
The MoHFW/ICMR move comes in the wake of publications in different parts of the world including India that soft drinks provide more than the recommended dietary allowance of refined sugar. Some of the soft drinks contain aspartame as sugar substitute, which lowers the seizure threshold in the brain inducing depression, rage and paranoia.
Since phosphoric acid forms a major component in soft drinks, regular consumption of drinks laced with this chemical may affect the body's function to utilise calcium, thus leading to osteoporosis.
Another component caffeine is known to cause jitters, insomnia, hypertension and beast lumps among others.
Based on a similar exercise in the USA, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases included soft drinks on the list of foods, which doctors may advise patients to avoid.
Surveys show that children and adolescents are the heaviest consumers of soft drinks and carbonated beverages. They are known to contribute nine per cent of calories in boys and eight per cent in girls.
The ICMR study will take all these medical facts into consideration before arriving at a final report.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad to get lead maps


May 26, 2008
By Syed Akbar
With lead poisoning threatening people in big cities, a group of scientists in Bangalore has decided to develop specialised lead maps for Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore to enable citizens know which areas are affected by lead.
The lead maps will tell people the landscapes and water bodies they should avoid if they want to keep themselves in good health. Once lead maps are developed for these cities, the project will be extended gradually to all districts. Specialised lead maps have become necessary for a country like India where people do not know much about the ill-effects of lead, which is present in most of the items people use in their daily life. Even a simple fancy item like Kajal/Surma (khol) is loaded with lead.
The maps will have “dangerous spots” highlighting the areas where lead contamination is considerable. “We are planning to create such maps for all the districts in the country. The lead maps will also inform citizens about the precautionary measures they should take whenever they happen to visit such areas,” says Bangalore-based Dr Venkatesh Thuppil, who is recognised as the “lead man of India”, for his pioneering research in the field.
The National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India, Bangalore, of which Dr Venkatesh is the director, has taken up lead poisoning as a major health concern. Because of the untiring efforts supported by research studies by the Centre, the Government of India introduced the concept of lead-free petrol eight years ago.
Dr Venkatesh told this correspondent that they thought of lead maps after they came across several people with cases of lead poisoning. “We know that people are visiting us with cases related to lead poisoning. We then thought of identifying the areas which contribute to the problem. This took us to the proposal of creating lead maps for important cities,” he points out.
The national centre took up monitoring of air, water and soil in Bangalore as a pilot study. The scientists also studied the levels of lead in human blood to understand the gravity of the situation. “In our studies it came to our notice that people with high levels of lead in their blood were from areas where the concentration of lead in environment was high. The areas near battery repair units were the worst hit. The lead levels in blood samples of children from the vicinity were as high as 75 micrograms per decilitre as against the universally permissible limit of 10 micrograms per deciliter,” he said.
Lead maps for specific areas are important for they will not only tell people about the concentration levels of lead in a given locality, but also prevent lead-related health problems including retarded growth in children due to damage to the central nervous system.
Presently, the scientists of the national referral centre are busy collecting data from a number of places in Karnataka, besides Chennai and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.
For accurate results, the scientists want to take lead concentration levels in a given locality during May-June, July-Oct and Nov-Dec, so that they could have exact information on the lead concentration just before the start of rainy season, during the rainy season and the months that follow.
The NRCLPI in collaboration with the Harvard University and Boston Medical Centre in USA is currently working on the abatement of lead and other heavy metals in Ayurvedic and other traditional medicines.
“Women have to be very careful about lead poisoning. The cosmetics are the utility products used extensively worldwide for maintaining and improving general appearance of face and other parts of the body. Women are frequently using Kajal/Surma and Kumkum without knowing the health hazards of these utility products,” he says.

Lead toxicity and herbal medication


May 26, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Many people believe that herbal medicines are a safe bet. They think that allopathic drugs cause side-effects while herbal medication is good for the body and the mind.
But a team of researchers from Bangalore has come out with a scientific study which points out that many herbal medicines contains poisonous heavy metals, particularly lead. Injudicious use of herbal medicines will result in accumulation of lead in the blood causing severe health complications.
A study by T Venkatesh, A Ravi Raja, GN Vishal Babu and Geraldine Menezes of the department of biochemistry and biophysics, St John’s Medical College, Bangalore, some of the herbal medicines prepared from certain roots and leaves contain lead at alarming levels.
“Awareness about the toxic effects of non-essential metals is still lacking in developing countries. Lead is one among them, which ranks second in the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’ s top 20 list of toxic metals. Some of the herbal medicines prepared from certain roots and leaves are known to contain this toxic metal at alarming levels.
We came across a person, who suffered from the toxic effects of lead such as vomiting and colicky abdominal pain after consuming an herbal remedy for jaundice treatment. This went unrecognised initially because of the presence of multiple problems like malaria and renal calculi. Lead poisoning as causative factor for anemia, vomiting and colic were confirmed only when blood lead concentration was estimated. A combination of chelation therapy and nutritional supplementation was found to be useful in reducing the body lead burden,” Venkatesh told this
correspondent from Bangalore.
Lead enters the body by routes such as inhalation, ingestion or by dermal contact, undergoes cumulative storage and it has no known biological functions. Major organs and systems like nervous system, hematopoietic system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, skeletal system, immunological system and renal system are affected by lead. People are exposed to lead from different environmental sources such as air, soil, food, drinking water or from different occupational and recreational sources and also occasionally from sources like folk
remedies, cosmetics, moonshine whisky and gasoline huffing. Folk and herbal remedies from the Indian subcontinent are a significant unrecognised source of lead toxicity.
A 39year old male patient from a village in Goa was referred to National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India, Bangalore, for the evaluation of lead poisoning. History revealed his habitual consumption of herbal medicines for any kind of illness. This time he had consulted a traditional practitioner for the treatment of jaundice in his village, who gave him syrup known in local language as Kadda.
After consuming 10 to 15 ml of Kadda everyday morning on empty stomach, for a period of 10 days, the patient experienced vomiting and severe abdominal pain. As the syrup did not cure jaundice he was admitted to Government Hospital for the treatment twice, on two occasions within a short period of two weeks.
All possible investigations including HbSAg and HIV were carried out. Results of biochemical investigations showed all normal except for mild elevation of total serum bilirubin -1.6 mg/dl (normal-0.2 to 1.0mg/dl) and Unconjugated bilirubin –1.3mg/dl (normal-0.2 to 0.6 mg/dl) suggestive of hemolytic jaundice. An abdominal CT scan revealed the presence of a 3mm calculus on the left kidney.
With persisting vomiting and severe abdominal pain, he was referred to a superspeciality private hospital in his place. At the time of admission - blood pressure was 130/90 mm of Hg; pulse rate was 76/minute and had no history of diabetes mellitus and hypertension.
Laboratory investigations showed a decrease in hemoglobin 7.8 grams. Repeat CT scan confirmed the presence of left renal calculus. Endoscopy was normal. A barium meal and follow through study did not reveal any abnormality in the small bowel. Two days later after the admission the patient suffered from fever with chills. So test for malaria along with ICT, WIDAL, tests for Leptospira, Brucella, and dengue were carried out. All tests were negative.
A surgical opinion was sought because of the persistent abdominal pain and fever. Urine examination, which was normal initially, had shown 10-12 WBCs on repeat examination. During this time as a work up for anemia, a rectic count was done which was raised and suspected a possibility of hemolytic anemia; the entire work up for hemolytic anemia included sickle test, hemoglobin variant analysis.
As the fever was not coming down, the smear for malaria was repeated including the indirect Coomb’s test that was positive this time and Chloroquine was given. It was also noted that the W.B.C count was progressively coming down and showed leucopenia on the blood picture and a possibility of drug-induced cause was found out.
The fever and vomiting gradually subsided but not the abdominal pain. A bone marrow examination revealed microcytic blood picture. Finally doctors suspected lead poisoning and the patient was sent for blood lead analysis to the NRCLPI. He presented with extreme weakness of both lower limbs and abdominal pain. His blood pressure was 132/86 mm Hg, Heart rate 84/min.
Most significant findings were elevated blood lead level and elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Lifestyle diseases to beat viral threat


May 23, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 22: Bacteria, viruses, germs and worms will play a low profile in the next two decades as lifestyle diseases overtake infectious and communicable diseases.
The global burden of disease is fast shifting from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, with chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke now being the chief causes of death globally, including India.
While the World Health Organisation warns that shifting health trends will push lifestyle diseases up the chart, health experts in India point out that the trend has already started in the country with the number of heart diseases and diabetes going up considerably.
According to a WHO report, leading infectious diseases like diarrhoea, HIV, tuberculosis, neonatal infections and malaria will become less important causes of death world-wide over the next 20 years. The WHO has arrived at this projection based on data on 73 health indicators.
Senior interventionist cardiologist Dr DK Barua says the chief causes of death are non-communicable diseases like heart attack, diabetes and hypertension. "The incidence of non-infectious diseases has gone up considerably. We are on the ascending stage now and 20 years from now, India could over take China in diabetic cases," he says.
The WHO statistics show risk factors like smoking and alcohol consumption will push the number of non-communicable diseases including maternal mortality, which is currently as high as 450 per lakh live births in India and other developing countries.
King George Hospital superintendent Dr T Ravi Raju supports WHO data saying India will become a leading county in terms of number of cases of diabetes and heart and kidney ailments. The average life span of an Indian was 37 years before Independence and now it has gone up to 65. "Continents were wiped due to cholera, malaria, tetanus and other communicable diseases but India could control them. Polio, cholera and small pox has been eradicated from the country. Before they could get heart and other non-infectious diseases, Indians were dying of communicable diseases. In heart diseases, the cases in India are nine times higher than that of Japan and six times more than that of US," he says.
Health experts say that the change in pattern of diseases is not necessarily due to the change in lifestyle or stress but Indians are genetically more prone to heart diseases than those living in any other developing country. About 15 per
cent of Indians are suffering from diabetes and in another 20 years, the percentage could go up to 20 per cent.

Monday, 19 May 2008

600th birthday fete: Annamayya has all in a spell


May 19, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 18: The sleepy village of Tallapaka, 100 km from the temple town of Tirupati, came to life on Sunday with devotional musicians, singers, poets, writers and artistes descending there from all over the world. The village has no economic activity worth mentioning. And yet the name Tallapaka spells magic and weaves images of a saint-poet, who was born there 600 years ago to the day.
The saint-poet, Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya, had left a lasting imprint on devotional music with his 32,000 devotional songs or sankeertanas composed in the praise of Venkateswara, the presiding deity of the Tirumala Hills in Tirupati.
Come Monday and composers, poets, musicians and the devout will celebrate the 600th birth anniversary of Annamacharya or Annamayya in his village. The government has spruced up the dusty village in Rajampet mandal of Kadapa district as mark of respect and devotion to Annamayya.
“The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams is busy obtaining technical recognition from Sri Venkateswara University to streamline research activities with a techno-academic outlook,” says TTD chairman B Karunakar Reddy. “ As of now, more than 50 dissertations have been produced by different universities.” A contemporary of saint Kabir, Annamayya devoted his life to singing the praises of Venkateswara, who is regarded as encompassing the power of Vishnu, Shiva and Aadi Shakthi. Not many know that Annamayya had also rendered the Ramayana in dwipada (rhyming couplets). Until Annamayya composed hymns in Telugu, the presiding deity was worshipped and praised in Sanskrit and Tamil.
The TTD executive officer, Mr K.V. Ramanachari, told this correspondent that the board would hold year-long celebrations to mark the birth anniversary. “This is Annamayya year. We are implementing an ambitious programme to perpetuate his memory and to popularise his compositions in India and abroad,” Mr Ramanachari said.
The idea behind celebrating the anniversary is to show the present generation the greatness of Telugu culture. “Young people should know about Annamayya and his compositions. This will inculcate in them a sense of devotion and hard work,” Mr Karunakar Reddy said. Annamayya was the first composer (vaggeyakara) in Telugu and created a system of music which was adopted by saint composers like Tyagaraja and Kshetraiah. The Annamayya tradition is still followed all over the world.
His compositions in Telugu are of high literary value and he is often regarded as the Shakespeare of Telugu devotional literature. The saint-composer preached the oneness of God and propagated the tatwa and mahatwa of Venkateswara. As the birthday celebrations begin on Monday, the village will go back to the days of Annamayya who rendered Telugu hymns in an altogether different note for more than eight decades. He lived for 95 years.

India Defence: Electronic warfare to move to satellites


By Syed Akbar
May 19, 2008
Hyderabad, May 18: India is planning to move its electronic warfare systems to satellites to make it difficult for most of its enemies to shoot down. Currently, electronic warfare systems (EWS) are mounted on ground vehicles or on pilotless aircraft. Though they are highly advanced, they are limited by range and have shortcomings apart from the fact that they are vulnerable to enemy attack.
The satellite-based EWS are more attack-proof because just about three countries have jealously-guarded capability to shoot down satellites. EWS are used to monitor enemy communication systems and jamming enemy radio and radar signals. They can even play havoc with the enemy’s missiles and electronic equipment. Advanced nations like the US have already developed the technology to put their EWS on satellites. India plans to manufacture the technology indigenously.
The city-based Defence Electronics Research Laboratory will develop the satellite EWS technology in association Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited. “Since the technology needs to be lightweight to be put in satellites, we are going for miniaturisation. The size of the equipment needs to be reduced by 10 times,” a senior defence scientist told this correspondent.
The miniaturisation of EWS will involve strengthening of electronic signalling systems so that it can have a large electromagnetic range. Once the satellite-based EWS is in place, India will have a greater military advantage in the region as it can monitor enemy nations. In another development, the Indian Army will get a boost with the induction of Samyukta electronic warfare system by November. DLRL has developed integrated electronic warfare systems for tactical battlefield operations as well as low conflict scenarios to meet the Army’s operational requirements. Samyukta will be India’s largest EWS. It is fully mobile and developed for tactical battlefield use. Its advantages include coverage of wide range of frequencies and the electromagnetic spectrum.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Naked Neck Polish: Hyderabadi breeds new variety


May 18, 2008
By Syed Akbar
A fancy poultry breeder from Hyderabad has created an exotic new variety of "Polish", without feathers on its neck. This is the first time that a Polish bird has been bred with a naked neck.
The breeder took a Naked Neck bird and crossbred it with a Polish bird to
obtain Naked Neck Polish. This he achieved in the eighth generation. Moreover, the new bird has several genetic advantages over ordinary poultry birds. It is resistant to a number of poultry diseases.
The new Naked Neck Polish is presently on display at a private poultry farm in Caravan area of old city of Hyderabad. Similar cross breeding attempts have been made in different parts of the world without much success.
"One has to wait for at least eight generations to confirm that a chosen
feature obtained from cross breed sustains in the offspring. In our case, we have successfully demonstrated that Naked Neck Polish bird could be achieved and the
new features sustained in the subsequent generations," says fancy poultry
breeder Naveed Qureshi.
Naked Neck Polish birds are now available only in Hyderabad and Naveed plans to export them to other countries, once the Union government lifts the ban on poultry imports-exports imposed in the wake of bird flu scarce in some Asian countries including West Bengal State in the country.
The Naked Neck is the only breed of poultry, which has no feathers on the neck. The bird has its origin in Central Europe and is popularly known as Transylvanian Naked Neck. It is also called Turken as the bird was wrongly thought to have evolved from cross breed between a chicken and a turkey.
It is a dual-purpose utility bird that gives a large number of eggs. It is in high demand for the rich quality of its meat and easy plucking of feathers. On the other hand Polish breed originated in Poland and is famous for its beauty. It bears crown-like feathers on its head. The bird is bred for fancy and is resistant to most of the poultry diseases.
"All these features from the two species of birds have been obtained in the new variety Naked Neck Polish. There are as many as 14 basic colours and several new standard colours," says Naveed, whose sprawling farm has more than 100 varieties of exotic birds including frizzled white Poland, white crest blue Polish, austrolop, orpinton, play mouth rock, white wyndoh and modern English game.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Powerful EWS decoys to seduce incoming missiles


May 13, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 12: The city-based Defence Electronics Research Laboratory is working on a state-of-the-art decoy system for the Indian Navy to protect vital installations from missile attacks by enemy nations.
The decoy will be equipped with the most modern electronic warfare system and the DLRL is looking for collaboration with some international firms to develop the technology.
"It will emit strong signals to seduce an in-coming missile and detract it from the targeted path. The missile will hit the decoy and the naval ship or vital installation will escape from the missile attack," DLRL director R Sreehari
Rao told a select group of reporters.
The decoy can also be towed to enable the aircraft to draw the missile's attention away from itself to a done or false target. It is programmed in such a way to "lure away" an in-coming missile by presenting a more attractive target.
"The system protects the aircraft, naval ships and other installations against
radar guided missiles.
The decoys can be free flying as well. Since it is a self-propelled decoy, it has
a fairer chance of enticing away a missile than a towed decoy.
Referring to the need for miniaturisation of electronic warfare systems, Dr Sreehari said the DLRL has plans to develop high altitude based EWS that could have a large range. He said the Samyukta electronic warfare system would be ready by November this year.
"In battle field, electromagnetic spectrum is extensively used for various purposes. Traditionally winning the war means control over land, air and sea based assets. he fourth dimension of war is control over EM spectrum. No war can be won without effectively controlling the EM spectrum," he said. Sreehari Rao said the DLRL had developed integrated electronic warfare systems for tactical battlefield operations as well as low conflict scenarios meeting the operational requirements of Indian Army.

Helicobacter pylori may cause cancer of the stomach


May 13, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that lives in the human gut, is capable of causing severe health complications including carcinomas. Certain genotypes of H pylori have higher predictive value for the development of intestinal-type cancer at an early age.
Researchers at the Centre for Liver Research and Diagnostics, Deccan College of Medical Sciences and the Department of Gastroenterology, Osmania General Hospital, have suggested that genotyping of H. pylori will serve as a useful tool for screening people at increased risk of developing malignancy. The city study is in contrast to earlier findings that H. pylori has no role in gastric cancers.
The study was led by eminent gastroenterologist CM Habibullah. Malignant tumours of the stomach are common, but the incidence of stomach cancer varies from country to country, probably a result of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors.
"Stomach cancer often occurs in older people whose stomachs produce only small quantities of acid. Although infection with Helicobacter pylori has been proven beyond doubt in the aetiopathogenesis of various gastric disorders, not much is known about the genotypes of H pylori infection in early-onset gastric cancer," the study noted.
As part of the study, 92 patients were separated into three groups on the basis of their endoscopic findings: group 1, gastric cancer; group 2, gastric ulcer; group 3, non-ulcer dyspepsia.
According to the city team of researchers, gastric cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths world-wide. Malignancy of the stomach is the most common cancer in Asia, nearly two-thirds of which occurs in developing countries.
"Our understanding of gastric cancer underwent a discernible shift with the discovery of Helicobacter pylori. Infection with H pylori probably still plays a leading role in the development of gastric cancer in young patients. In a country such as India, where more than 75 per cent of the population are infected, it has been proved beyond doubt that H pylori infection is high, especially in areas of low socio-economic status and bad hygiene conditions," the scientists said.
In addition, a number of environmental factors have been shown to be associated with gastric cancer, including high-salt diets, N-nitrosamines and low intake of dietary antioxidants typically found in fresh fruit and vegetables.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Agni-5: India plans 5000 km range Agni-5 missile


May 10, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 9: India has already attained the capability of developing missiles, which could hit targets beyond 5000 km range, according to Avinash Chander, programme director of Agni missile system.
Avinash Chander, who is also the director of Advanced Systems Laboratory that developed the Agni components, said his lab would now take up the design of the new missile system. "We have the capability of making 5000 km range missiles, but we have to make the designs first. The designing part will be over in two year's time," he said.
Interacting with a select group of reporters here on Friday after the successful test-fire of Agni-3 missile earlier this week, Avinash Chander said the next programme would be Agni-5. There's no need for Agni-4 as it's just an upgradation of the existing Agni-3. "We are looking forward to developing Agni-5 missiles with multiple warheads.
The present missile system carries only one warhead. The advanced stage of Agni-5 will be capable of carrying three warheads that could hit the given target or the set of different targets with precision," he pointed out.
The Agni-3 missile has filled the vital gaps in India's defence capability while Agni-5 will take it a step further. "We are on par with the European nations and China when it comes to possession of missile system capability. Only the USA is ahead of us," he claimed.
The development of Agni-5 will put India on an advantageous position in the region as it could hit any target within the geopolitical system. Only the USA, Russia, France and China have missiles beyond the 3,000 km range. India has
joined the select club with the successful test-firing of Agni-3, which has a range of about 3,500 km. "The Agni-5 technology will be totally indigenous," Avinash Chander said.
Referring to Agni-3, he said it has a state-of-the-art inertial guidance, highly accurate sensors with high immunity from jamming. The ASL is also working on new
warhead technologies that could be used for Agni-3 and Agni-5. The warheads will be capable of hitting the given targets piercing through the anti-ballistic missile defence system of the enemy. They are capable of fooling the radar system.
There will be decoy warheads which will be fired along with the genuine ones. The idea is to divert the attention of the enemy's defence system. The enemy will lose its anti-ballistic missiles firing at the decoy warheads while the real warheads will hit the targets, destroying the enemy's capability. The warheads will also pass through the atmosphere dodging the enemy's missiles.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Old rice is not good for health


May 8, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 7: Old rice cooks well but it may cause severe health problems
including poisoning if it is not washed properly.
Old rice is infested by fungus that release aflatoxins, which are ranked
among the most carcinogenic substances known to science. A study conducted by the
city-based Directorate of Rice Research revealed that most of the rice
available in farmer fields, godowns and consumer markets is infested by a type of
fungus known as Aspergillus. The worst is the rice which is 36 months old or more.
As part of the study, senior DRR scientists CS Reddy and K Muralidharan
collected as many as 900 rice samples covering 250 varieties in 20 States
across the country. The collection was from areas exposed to rain/flood or stored in
storage bins or from the whole sale/retail market places.
The team isolated aflatoxin-producing mycoflora, Aspergillus species. "Aspergillus contamination was detected in most of the seed samples. A. flavus, A. niger, A. ochraceus and A. parasiticus were identified from these samples. In general, the Aspergillus contamination was more in the seed samples collected from the crop/seed exposed to rain followed by seed stored for long periods," they pointed out.
Around 60 to 84 per cent of the rice samples collected were found positive to
Aflatoxin B1. Of the samples collected from different sources, 93 per cent
of the seed which was exposed to rain was found positive followed by the samples
stored for more than 3 years (77 to 79 per cent) and the samples collected
from consumer markets (75 per cent). Of these, 21 seed samples recorded 32.8 to
308 ìg aflatoxin B1/ kg rice, which is above the permissible limit.
The DRR team attributed the growth of fungus on rice to the crop being
exposed to frequent and heavy rainfall and floods, particularly just before
harvest. Often harvested sheaves remain wet and grains become prone to invasion by fungi. Such grains with moisture content higher than the desired levels enter the
storage system.
"As a result, invasion by both, field and storage fungi take place. In general, fungal invasion leads to discoloration, loss in viability and quality of the grains. Aflatoxin contamination of agricultural commodities including rice is a serious food safety issue besides being a significant economic concern," the DRR study warned.
The team recorded infection of Aspergillus species in rice grains in surface-
sterilised seed, kernel, hull and kernel powder. The scanning electron microscopic examination showed the presence of Aspergillus species, particularly A. parasiticus in kernel, starch, endosperm and embryo. The discoloured kernel revealed the presence of tubular, long, turgid and ramified fungal hyphae both in vegetative or reproductive stage and had disintegrated starch.
"Consumption of these discoloured rice grains is a definite risk to health," the DRR study said adding that use of certain biological agents and plant extracts like clove, garlic, neem and turmeric will prevent the fungal growth on rice or drastically reduce its effect.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

AP Government Knocks SC's Door Over Muslim Quota


May 5, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 4: The State government has hired eminent advocate K Parasaran to file a petition in Supreme Court seeking continuance of four per cent quota for backward classes among Muslims in educational institutions.
The petition, challenging the order of Andhra Pradesh High Court, which stayed implementation of the Muslim quota, will be filed in the apex court either on Monday or Tuesday. State advocate-general CV Mohan Reddy held talks with Parasaran in New Delhi to fine-tune the petition.
The Congress government does not want to lose the support of Muslim voters in an election year and thus decided to seek SC’s intervention for continuance of the quota pending final disposal of the case by the High Court.
Earlier, the AP High Court stayed operation of the Muslim quota and said it would take up hearing on the issue after the summer vacation. Though admissions in professional degree courses have been completed, the academic year for postgraduate medical courses is about to start. The High Court’s stay will affect dozens of Muslim
doctors who wants to pursue superspeciality courses.
The State government acted following pressure from the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen. Muslim students from different parts of the State called on MIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi seeking his intervention. The MIM leader in turn approached Minorities Welfare
Minister Muhammad Ali Shabber. The crucial byelections to 17 Assembly and four Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, where Muslims are in considerable number, has also prompted the government to hurry up with the case.
“We will explore all legal possibilities to ensure that backward Muslim classes get the benefits of reservations. We will move Supreme Court in a day or two seeking vacation of the stay. The government is hiring top legal experts for the success of the case,” Shabber told this correspondent.
The government’s idea is to seek SC’s intervention and get the stay vacated so that it could continue with the quota in the ongoing PG medical admissions, besides in the new academic year that begins next month. About 15,000 Muslim students stand to be benefit from the quota in all professional courses.

Genetic link for frequent miscarriage


May 6, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Certain couples report frequent miscarriages without any valid external reasons. Scientists have now found that such couples undergo miscarriages because of genetic abnormalities, known in scientific jargon as “abnormal karyotype”.
Genetic counselling will help couples with complaint of frequent miscarriage rectify the defect. It will provide them with the options for future pregnancies.A study conducted by senior scientists SB Nair, G Mukundan, BM Paul and others has found that the single most common reason for pregnancy loss is the presence of a chromosome abnormality in the foetus, particularly if the loss occurs early in the pregnancy.
“About 60 per cent of recurrent miscarriages might be caused by chromosomal aberrations in the embryo,” they said. Of the chromosomal abnormalities observed in couples with two or more pregnancy losses, two-thirds were balanced autosomal translocations with the incidence of such translocations in this group being 30 times higher than in the general population.
As part of the research project, the scientists selected 467 couples with history of recurrent miscarriage. Investigations were carried out to rule out nongenetic factors such as placental abruption as the causative factor for multiple abortion. “After that they were enrolled for genetic work-up. Both partners of each couple were karyotyped and out of that we found 30 cases with translocations”.
One of the cases studied was that of a 34-year-old phenotypically normal female. She had three missed abortions. Her partner was found to be phenotypically and clinically normal. All the other clinical parameters of both the partners were within the normal range. Presently they have a chromosomally normal male and a female child. No relevant family history and consanguinity were observed.
In another case, the team studied a 22-year-old phenotypically normalfemale with three missed abortions. Her mother also had a history of five missed abortions - four in the first trimester and one in the second trimester. Her partner was a 31-year-old phenotypically normal male. His sperm count was normal. All the other clinical parameters of both the partners were within the normal range. No consanguinity was seen.
They pointed out that up to 60 per cent of sporadic miscarriages and between 29-60 per cent of recurrent miscarriages might be caused by chromosomal aberrations in the embryo.
“Carriers of balanced translocations are subjected to an increased risk of abnormal chromosomal segregation during meiosis. The consequences include infertility, multiple pregnancy losses and live born abnormal offspring with multiple congenital malformations as a result of chromosomal imbalance,” the scientists observed.
One major genetic reason for recurrent miscarriage is found to be a balanced translocation in either of the parents. Any discrepancy between miscarriage and congenital anomalies caused by unbalanced gametes might depend on the chromosome number and the positions of breakpoints. The risk of having a handicapped child with an unbalanced karyotype depends on the type of translocation and on the sex of the transmitting parent.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Nizam Diamond: The Search Continues


May 3, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 2: After the "frozen funds" the descendants of the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, have now turned their attention to the "missing diamond" that commands a price of Rs 1000 crore in the international market.
Simply called the "Nizam's diamond", it was last seen some 60 years ago in the State treasury of then Hyderabad State. It went missing in mysterious circumstances just before the Indian Army annexed the Nizam's state in what is known as Police Action during 1948.
The Nizam's diamond weighs 277 carats and the World Diamond Council lists it as one of the "mysterious precious stones" of historical importance. The diamond originally weighed 340 carats and after cut, it lost 63 carats. It is the second largest diamond ever mined from the Krishna valley after the Great Moghul diamond. The Nizam's diamond is ranked as the fifth biggest diamond in the world.
For decades the descendants of the Nizam dug up the old havelis in a bid to trace the Nizam's diamond. They gave up the search 20 years ago. But the renewed talk of Rs 250 crore Nizam's frozen funds now lying in London's National Westminster's Bank has rekindled in the royal descendants the hope of finding the lost diamond. They have resumed the search sometime last month. The diamond, if found, will solve the financial problems of the Nizam's descendants particularly his eldest grandson and legal heir Mukarram Jah and his younger brother Mufakham Jah.
Both the grandsons will get the right over the Nizam's diamond, as it was a personal property of Mir Osman Ali Khan, though kept in the State treasury. The other members of the Nizam's family may also demand a share, but it will lead to prolonged legal wrangling. The Nizam's diamond is believed to have been lost along with other jewellery items, not part of the famed jewellery collection of the Nizam, now the property of the Central government.
City historian Muhammad Safiullah believes that the Nizam's diamond may be lying somewhere with the personal belongings of Mir Osman Ali Khan. "It is easy to trace famous diamonds. There's no record of it being sold anywhere in the world including the famous auction houses. No person, who knows the value of diamond, will not cut it to pieces. This means that the diamond is still in the possession of someone in the family or lying with the personal belongings of the last Nizam," he points out.
Historical records of Golconda fort show that the Nizam's diamond was mined at Kolluru village on the banks of the river Krishna in Guntur district in 1830. Several European historians including Tavernier have referred to this diamond as a prized possession of the Nizam. The diamond was convex-shaped with irregular facets and almost thrice the size of the famed Koh-e-noor diamond, also mined from the Krishna valley.

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