Thursday, 30 August 2012

Once in a blue moon: What is blue moon? The secrets behind it

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 30: Do not forget to take look at the night sky on
Friday. The proverbial blue moon will occur a couple of minutes before
7.30 pm in India and if you miss this opportunity, you will have to
wait for a little more than two years to see it.

The moon however will not appear blue. It will be just like any other
full moon and charmingly beautiful. Since the lunar year is 11 days
short of the solar calendar, it so happens once in every few years
that full moon occurs twice in a month. The full moon on August 31
will qualify for the blue moon tag as a full moon had already occurred
on August 2.

“For the second time this month, the Moon is about to become full.
There was one full Moon on August 2 (in India), and now a second is
coming on August 31. According to modern folklore, whenever there are
two full Moons in a calendar month, the second one is "blue," says the
National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) in a press

According to N Sri Raghunandan Kumar of Planetary Society of India, on
August 31 one can look towards east direction to see Moon, which will
rise at 6.13 pm. It will technically attain the full or total phase at
7.28 pm.

“The next time it will occur is on July 31 in 2015 (July 2, 2015 and
July 31, 2015).

Though the moon does not look blue on a blue moon day, it however does
when there is a major volcanic eruption on the earth. “A truly-blue
Moon usually requires a volcanic eruption. Back in 1883, for example,
people saw blue moons almost every night after the Indonesian volcano
Krakatoa exploded with the force of a 100-megaton nuclear bomb. Plumes
of ash rose to the very top of Earth's atmosphere, and the Moon … it
turned blue!” the NASA release said.

People also saw blue-colored Moons in 1983 after the eruption of the
El Chichon volcano in Mexico. And there are reports of blue Moons
caused by Mt. St. Helens in 1980 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Certain
forest fires can do the same trick.  A famous example is the giant
muskeg fire of September 1953 in Alberta, Canada.  Clouds of smoke
containing micron-sized oil droplets produced lavender suns and blue
Moons all the way from North America to England, the release added.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The real culprit is diarrhoea: Loose motions claim more lives than several other diseases including heart ailments

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: "Loose motions" have now emerged as the major cause
of death among Indians overtaking respiratory infections, cardiovascular
diseases and road traffic injuries.
According to the World Health Organisation's country profiles of
environmental burden of disease, the simple-appearing loose motions kill
three times more people in India than the complicated cardiovascular diseases
do. Loose motions are responsible for the death of 28 people for every 2000
population in the country every year as against nine people killed by
complicated heart diseases.
Incidentally, the increasing number of vehicles on roads have not increased
the number of accidental deaths. But they have contributed to lung cancers,
asthma and other types of cancers. Only five people in India die in road
accidents for 2000 people every year as against 20 people killed due to
respiratory diseases caused by vehicular pollutants.
Loose motions or diarrhoeal diseases are linked to bad sanitation and poor
quality of drinking water. And Andhra Pradesh is no exception to diarrhoeal
deaths. Doctors in the State attribute the spurt in complaints of loose
motionsand respiratory diseases to pollution. They say the number of patients with
bowel problems has increased of late.
Dr SC Samal, senior gastroenterologist of Apollo Health City, points out that
99 per cent of deaths due to diarrhoea are in children. "It’s rarely a
cause of death in adults. Poverty is an indirect index of diarrhoea. The socio
economic status and level of literacy determine the incidence of the problem. Better
economic status and being literate makes one to afford better housing with
sanitation, safe drinking water and maintain hygienic conditions. These can
prevent incidents of diarrhoeal deaths," he says.
The WHO's environmental burden of disease lists as many as 14 "risk
factors" that are responsible for the death of people. While diarrhoea
tops the list with 14 deaths for every 1000 people every year, respiratory infections
occupy the second slot with 10 deaths for the same number of people.
Unintentional injuries that are responsible for the death of 9.5 people for
1000 population are the third major killer.
Incidentally malaria, though linked to environment and sanitation, is the
least cause of death in India. Only 0.3 people per 1000 population die because of
Chest specialist Dr Pradyut Waghray says of late the number of asthma and
other respiratory problems has increased in Hyderabad. "Breathing problems
are on the increase. Small particles from dust and emissions get deposited in
the lungs and cause a number of breathing problems. Many of these
pollutants are  carcinogenic in nature and cause cancers," he says.

What if an asteroid hits the earth?

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Astronauts from around the world are discussing and chalking out a strategy on
earth-threatening asteroids, some of which may collide with the human planet in the next few decades leaving a trail of death and destruction.

They are also discussing a range of possible options for deflecting a threatening object and outline opportunities for future research on the nature of asteroids and comets.
The 2036 close approach of the asteroid Apohis, which is currently predicted to have a one in 45,000 change of impacting the earth, will be highlighted at the conference as an example. During its close passage by the Earth on April 13, 2029, it is possible that asteroid Apophis will pass through a
keyhole leading to a collision in 2036.
According to an estimation by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an impact from Apophis would release more than one lakh times the energy released in the nuclear blast over Hiroshima.
"Thousands of square kilometres would be directly affected by the blast
but the whole of the earth would see the effects of the dust released into the atmosphere," NASA scientists points out.
NASA has suggested two possible methods of protecting the earth from an
asteroid or comet determined to be on a collision course, by destroying the object before it hits the earth or by deflecting the object from its orbit before it hits the earth.
To destroy the earth-approaching object, astronauts would land a spacecraft on the surface of the object and use drills to bury nuclear bombs deep below its surface. Once the astronauts were a safe distance away, the bomb would be detonated, blowing the object to pieces. Drawbacks to this approach
include the difficulty and danger of the mission itself, and the fact that many of the resulting asteroid fragments
might still hit the Earth, resulting in massive damage and loss of life.
In the deflection approach, powerful nuclear bombs would be exploded up to half a mile away from the object. The radiation created by the blast would cause a thin layer of object on the side nearest the explosion to vaporise and fly into space. The force of this material blasting into space would recoil
the object in the opposite direction just enough to alter its orbit, causing it to miss the earth.
NASA now supports, in collaboration with the United States Air Force,  the Spaceguard Survey and its goal of discovering and tracking 90 per cent of the Near Earth Asteroids with a diameter greater than about one kilometre by next year.

Astrobiologists are now on the look out for solutions to unique human health problems related to gravity and weightlessness, as a number of government and private space research organisations throw open the outer space for tourism

By Syed Akbar

Hyderabad: Astrobiologists are now on the look out for solutions to
unique human health problems related to gravity and weightlessness, as a
number of government and private space research organisations throw open
the outer space for tourism.
Added to the newer craze for space tourism, India plans to send man to the
moon by 2020 while the US wants for human exploration of Mars by 2037.
With the number of space travellers projected to grow by several times in the
coming few decades, space biologists, who gathered at the ongoing 58th
international astronautical congress here, want a review of the human health
and performance in space.
Extended missions of exploration beyond low-earth orbit will expose humans
to environments and conditions that have never been experienced before.
Space scientists want to Lok back at the evolution of knowledge  and
experience related to human health and performance in space, and based on
the best evidence of today, will prepare for the anticipated health
challenges of future exploration voyages to the moon and Mars.
Dr Ronald J white, senior fellow in the Universities Space Research
Association, USA, has done considerable research on  human health and
performance in space.

Scientists from the European Space Agency are of the view that there's no
point in sending human explorers on long voyages around the solar system if
they arrive at their destination in poor physical shape. Long stays in zero
gravity are not good for the human body, they argue.
"Astronauts lose bone mass at around 1 per cent for every month they are in
space while muscles, including heart muscles, tend to atrophy despite hours
of exercise. Besides, space tourists will also face several health problems.
Most astronauts have difficulty walking on return to earth and some have to
be carried from their spacecraft. If this is the case with those who spend
six months in space, what if they had just spent nine months in space on a
transfer orbit to Mars, and instead of medical attention and rest they
faced the arduous exploration of another planet?" they point out.
According to NASA and ESA space experts, the effects of weightlessness are
not the only danger facing long-haul crews. Radiation sweeps through the
solar system, mostly in the form of the solar wind also pose a health hazard.
"On Earth, we are protected from this radiation by our atmosphere and by the
Earth's magnetic field, which also shields near-Earth space. International
space station crews receive more radiation than groundlings, but except
during solar flares levels are rarely dangerously high," they said.
Out between the planets, though, travellers are far more exposed. The thin
hull metal that stands between them and vacuum will keep out much of the
deadly hail. But it is hard to stop a really high-energy cosmic ray that zips
through our solar system at very close to light speed.
Scientists feel that the best way to improve human health and performance in
space is through understanding of the precise effects of zero gravity and
finding ways to combat them by drugs, diet and special exercises.
"By 2020 or so, we should know a good deal more about micro gravity health
problems and how to solve them than we do today," they said.

Space garbage becomes major headache for astronauts: About 7500 objects made by man circulating in outer space

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  For astronauts and space scientists, it's the problem of
space "garbage" that keeps them bothering up in the skies.
Called space debris or junk, the space garbage has piled up to such an extent
that two of the world's topmost space research agencies, Nasa and Esa have
now taken up a mission to keep the environs of outer space clean and tidy.
The European Space Agency has already achieved "significant progress" in
preparing measurements and modelling the space-debris environment.

Space scientists express concern over the increase in debris pollution in the space
environment which surrounds the earth.
Space debris or garbage is nothing but objects left in the space by man
during explorations. Astrophysicists estimate that there are about one lakh small
and big particles suspended in the space and posing threat to future space
explorations, as space tourism is all set to get a boost in the next five
to 10 years.
Dr Qi Lin of Beihang University, Beijing, China, Dr Igor Molotov of
Moscow, Russia, Dr Hugh G Lewis of Southampton, UK, and Dr Canan Li of
Harbin, China, besides Christophe Bonnal of France, Nicholas L Johnson of
United States have reviewed the problem of space debris.

The US Space Surveillance Network has identified as many as 7500 objects
through ground-based radar, optical and infrared sensors. The Network could
identify only objects which are not smaller than 10 cm in low Earth orbit and
one metre in the case of geostationary orbit. Objects which are smaller or
bigger than these are out of the surveillance of the USS Network.
Only six per cent of these objects listed by the Surveillance Network are
active satellites and more than 40 per cent of them are fragments of
disintegrated satellites and upper stages of rockets. This shows how much
"pollution" man has caused in the outer space during the last 50 years of
space exploration and travel.
"The basic hazard in space caused by debris is damage or even destruction by
collision. Current risk levels are small, but are steadily increasing. For
some space missions space debris has already become a safety issue and active
protection through shielding will be needed. The International Space Station
is an example," say the space scientists.
Though NASA and ESA are removing space debris through methods like air-
drag perturbations, the problem continues to grow as the rate at which the
garbage is piling up is more than the rate of removal. "This will sooner or
later lead to a major increase in the amount of debris as a consequence of
collisions between Earth-orbiting objects," they warn.
The is currently pursuing four main activities regarding the environment like
development of a meteoroid and debris reference model, radar measurements
of mid-size debris, optical measurements and analysis of spacecraft surfaces
returned from space.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM): Dangerous bacteria found in tattoo ink

By Syed Akbar
Planning for a tattoo? Make sure that the ink used in tattoo designs is safe and not 
contaminated by harmful chemicals or disease-causing germs. As tattoo is fast becoming a 
fashion statement among youngsters, health experts warn that a little negligence could 
lead to severe health complications. Researchers in the USA have found a group of 
bacteria called non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) in tattoo inks.

City doctors have sounded a health warning after many people in the USA reported health 
issues related to NTM after they underwent tattoo sessions. In the last few months, there 
has been a multi-state outbreak of infections linked to contaminated tattoo inks in the 
United States.

Many people in India too suffer from tattoo-related health issues, but in the absence of 
a regulatory body that governs tattoo parlours, these cases go unreported. City 
dermatologists say they regularly treat cases related to tattoo allergies. Though there 
is no official data on tattoos in India, it is estimated that at least five per cent of 
youngsters have undergone tattoo sessions. In rural areas, tattoos are quite popular and 
mostly done under bad sanitary conditions.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 
(CDC) of the United States have come out with guidelines, “the hidden dangers of getting 
inked”. The guidelines say that “even if tattoo artists follow proper hygienic practices, 
they may not know that their inks are contaminated. People from all walks of life have 
tattoos, which might lead you to believe that tattoos are completely safe. But there are 
health risks that can result in the need for medical care”. Unfortunately, such 
guidelines do not exist in India.

Warns Dr Radha Shah, senior dermatologist from Apollo Hospitals: “While getting tattoos 
done, if the instrument is not sterlised properly, transmission of diseases like TB, 
leprosy, hepatitis B, viral warts etc., can happen”.

She says the dye used can give rise to allergic reactions. In cases of photosensitivity, 
when exposed to sun, the area can get allergic. “Choose a parlour, which uses fresh 
needles and maintains hygiene. Another aspect is, permanent tattoos especially the 
multi-coloured ones cannot be got rid of easily. Therefore, one should opt for temporary 
tattoos,” Dr Radha Shah adds.

Given the compromised hygienic conditions at tattoo parlours in Hyderabad and other 
cities in India, health experts suggest that people, who got tattooed, should immediately 
consult doctor in case they notice skin rashes or develop fever. Hyderabad has a little 
over two dozen tattoo centres and they are not regulated by either health or drug control 

The risks

If a germ called Mycobacterium chelonae finds its way into tattoo inks, it could create 
severe health problems related to lungs, joints and eyes. As many medical and research 
labs in India are not well equipped, diagnosing the problem becomes even more difficult, 
resulting in patient suffering for longer periods even beyond six months.

Tattoo ink may also be contaminated with molds and other types of harmful bacteria.

Doctors suggest that tattoo artists use sterilised inks and distilled or filtered water 
to dilute inks to prevent infections.

Do not buy skin creams or ointments from tattoo parlours or artists. Consult a 
dermatologist or physician and follow doctor’s prescription.

The moon may have been hailed as the god of fertility and delivery, but a team of Indian doctors debunks the age-old myth that different phases of the Earth’s natural satellite influence childbirth

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  The moon may have been hailed as the god of
fertility and delivery, but a team of Indian doctors debunks the
age-old myth that different phases of the Earth’s natural satellite
influence childbirth.

Many people in different parts of the world including those in
developed nations believe that the waning and waxing of the moon
affects the pregnancy with more number of children born on the days
when the moon is full. In fact, hospitals in rural areas in the
country gear up on full moon days in anticipation of more births.

Doctors from Midnapore Medical College and Hospital studied old
medical records of childbirths in village hospitals covering a whole
lunar year (354 days) to verify the long-held myth that the lunar
cycle influences the pregnancy cycle. A thorough analysis of the data
of about 10,000 births mostly spontaneous deliveries without external
induction of labour pains revealed that there was no significant
difference in the frequency of births during various phases of the
lunar cycle regardless of route of delivery (natural or caesarean).

“Our observations do not support the hypothesis of a relationship
between lunar cycle and the frequency of obstetric deliveries,” the
researchers said in the study published in the latest issue of the
Indian Journal of Public Health. The team comprised Dr Saswata
Bharati, Dr Malay Sarkar, Dr Partha Sarathi Haldar, Dr Swapan Jana and
Dr Subrata Mandal.

Stating that the moon is related with fertility, pregnancy and
delivery, the researchers said even professional obstetricians notice
an increase in demand for obstetric care on the days when the moon is
full, particularly in rural India. Research studies conducted in
different countries were in contradiction to one another. Setting
controversies on the issue to rest, the Indian team ruled out any
connection whatsoever between childbirth and the lunar cycle.

As part of the research, the team divided the childbirths into four
groups, each group correlating to four different phases of the moon –
new moon day, days between new moon and full moon, full moon day, and
days between full moon and new moon. They also had a fifth group with
average of the entire lunar month. There was no significant difference
in the average number of childbirths in any given group.

“The effect of lunar phase has been studied for the incidence rate of
patient falls in the hospital, surgical complications, postoperative
nausea and vomiting, myocardial infarction, trauma and traffic
accidents, behavior, psychiatric problems suicidal tendencies, crime
rates, and even gout attacks. Although, some of the studies found
associations of events with lunar cycle, most of the studies either
could not find enough evidence to support the association or exclude
the possibility of any association in conclusion,” the researchers said.

They concluded that the different phases in the lunar cycle, neither
the full moon nor the new moon appear to have any influence over the
nature and distribution of deliveries.

Negative effects of Areca nut: Spurt in oral cancers linked to supari

By Syed Akbar
Paan with supari may be ubiquitous at all auspicious functions ranging
from betrothal to housewarming ceremony, but scientists now link the
spurt in oral cancer cases to increasing consumption of this customary
nut. Researchers warn that supari or areca nut produces certain
harmful chemicals in the mouth leading to genetic mutations and oral

The incidence of oral cancers is linked to the time one keeps supari
in the mouth. Those who chew and swallow supari within a few moments
run less risk of oral cancers. Addition of paan or betel leaf and lime
only aggravates the problem as lime triggers additional chemical
reactions in the oral cavity.

Researchers from Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, have linked chewing
of areca nut to the burden of oral malignant disease and premature
death. “The increased incidence of cancer in the recent population can
be due to the change in the method of usage, i.e., keeping at
particular site rather than rapid chewing and swallowing of all the
contents, thereby decreasing direct contact time with the oral
mucosa,” the research team comprising Gunjan Shah and Pankaj
Chaturvedi pointed out.

Agreeing with the research findings, nutritionist Dr Suneetha Sapur,
who is also the director of Akkshaya Foundation, intake of areca nut
with tobacco increases the risk of oral cancer. “The presence of
tannins in supari inhibits the absorption of micronutrients like
iron,” she warns.

Dr P Vijay Anand Reddy, director of Apollo Cancer Hospital, Hyderabad,
observes pan masala is talked about as cancer causing, but most people
are not aware that areca nut is more dangerous and highly carcinogenic.

“We need to create more awareness on all forms of chewing habits like
pan masala, supari. Areca nut being carcinogenic we need to curb its
use to reduce the incidence of cancers,” he adds.

The research revealed that areca nut not only causes mutations, but
also damage the genes (genotoxic). This results in formation of
lesions, which ultimately cause cancer in the mouth. Incidentally,
areca nut is a psychoactive substance that has a soothing effect on
the brain.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has funded the city-based Dr CR Rao Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (AIMSCS) to conduct studies on the latest warfare technology including decoding of enemy’s military secrets and strengthening India’s defence capabilities

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The Defence Research and Development Organisation
(DRDO) has funded the city-based Dr CR Rao Advanced Institute of
Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (AIMSCS) to conduct
studies on the latest warfare technology including decoding of enemy’s
military secrets and strengthening India’s defence capabilities.

The Rs 2.8 crore sanctioned to AIMSCS was for research on two critical
areas of defence – radar technology and cryptanalysis. While research
in radar technology will help boosting the country’s defence system,
the project on cryptanalysis deals with coding and decoding secret or
encrypted messages. Cryptanalysis needs mathematically advanced
computerized schemes.

DRDO’s chief and eminent defence scientist Dr VK Saraswat has been in
the news for sanction of funds to AIMSCS, of which he is the honorary
president. Defence sources refute the allegation of misuse of funds
saying that the money was sanctioned for the critical projects as they
were taken up by eminent researchers including Prof Vellenki Umapathi
Reddy, Prof SB Rao and Prof Virender Sule.

“The project on radar systems including target detection, resolution
and identification was taken up as it has tremendous potential of the
research outcome and its usefulness to futuristic radar development
activities of DRDO. Top scientists including Prof PR Mahapatra of
Indian Institute of Science reviewed the proposal and recommended
sanction of funds,” a senior defence official told this correspondent.

According to sources, the morale of the DRDO team has been hit after
the allegation of irregularity in the sanction of funds. CR Rao
institute received funding from a number of agencies including the
government of India (Rs 10 crore), planning commission (Rs 5 crore),
national technical research organisation (Rs 12.48 crore) and
government of Andhra Pradesh (Rs 50 lakh).

The project on cryptanalysis was recommended by director of Scientific
Analysis Group, Delhi, based on the critical areas of research in the
futuristic areas of cryptanalysis and cryptography, DRDO officials
said, adding that the expertise was available with AIMSCS.

According to them, such collaborative work with premier institutes of
the country have played a crucial role in overcoming the damaging
impact of isolation forced upon India and its strategic research
organisations under the harsh international denial regimes.
Involvement of academic and research institutes with expertise in the
critical areas of research is an established process in the country
and elsewhere.

“Only for the reason Dr Saraswat being the president of the Institute,
it does not bind the research body from seeking projects and funding
from various government bodies, research organisations including those
of DRDO,” another DRDO official said.

They found fault with the audit saying it was conducted within the
premises of the Controller General Defence Account’s office and in
complete violation of audit norms; there was no entry meeting to even
explain the scope of audit. They point out that the auditing
authorities did not seek any clarifications or replies of the DRDO

Concerned with lack of security guidelines for private companies involved in design and manufacture of critical defence components, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) has come out with a set of recommendations to make India’s Defence industry highly secure

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Concerned with lack of security guidelines for
private companies involved in design and manufacture of critical
defence components, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry
of India (Assocham) has come out with a set of recommendations to make
India’s Defence industry highly secure.

The Assocham on Friday submitted the recommendations to the Ministry
of Defence. A number of private companies are involved in the design
and development of critical components used by Defence units and Armed
Forces. In the absence of security audit, there is every danger of the
critical technology falling into the wrong hands.

“During the process of issue of licences to private companies for
design, development and manufacture of Defense items, it has been felt
that there is a need to institute a system of security audit of
private sector defence companies to ensure that security of the
defence services is not compromised with the grant of industrial
licence to such companies,” the Assocham said.

The Assocham noted that every private company seeking a Department of
Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) licence for defence-related
activity should put in place its own elaborate security instructions
to ensure adequate security

“The Ministry of Defence needs to additionally ensure that all private
sector defence companies meet a certain minimum security criterion
based on a standardised template, acceptable to both sides. This
template, in severity, should be divided into three types, in
conformity with the sensitivity of the type of products and services
being provided by such companies,” it said.

The Assocham recommended that the template cover three sets of
security audit aspects under the headings – high, medium and low.  The
onus of deciding the category under which any private sector defence
company should fall from the security audit point of view would lie
with the Department of Defence Production (DDP) of the Defence Ministry.

WHO points out that influenza viruses A (H3N2) and subtype B are circulating in India, besides neighbouring China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India along with neighbouring countries continues
to report “notable” human influenza (flu) activity, says the latest
release on flu by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO has pointed out that influenza viruses – A (H3N2) and subtype
B - are circulating in India, besides neighbouring China, Bangladesh
and Sri Lanka.

Though human influenza cases related to the 2009 pandemic A (H1N1) are
on the decline, still many pockets report a considerable number of
infections. Andhra Pradesh alone reported 145 cases related to the
2009 pandemic virus with 18 deaths so far this year. India reported
2393 cases with 134 deaths during January 1 and August 5.

The WHO has found that persistent low number of pandemic virus and
influenza type B cases, in almost equal number, is reported from the
country. After a lull during 2011, the influenza virus became
relatively active during 2012, with Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
reporting large number of cases including deaths.

Interestingly, health authorities in the country conduct diagnostic
tests for the 2009 pandemic virus, leaving the other two sub-types, A
(H3N2) and subtype B, which the WHO has found to be circulating in
tropical countries including India. Diagnostic tests for H3N2 will
help in finding out if the virus had mutated in the country too, as it
did in the USA. The H3N2 has turned into H3N2v (v for variant) in the
USA after obtaining a gene from the 2009 pandemic influenza virus.

“Some tropical countries are reporting notable flu activity,” the WHO
said in its biweekly flu update, adding that two subtypes are
circulating in Bangladesh, southern China, India, Singapore, Sri
Lanka, and Vietnam.

Of flu virus isolates that were subtyped, 81.2 per cent were type A
and 18.8 per cent were type B. Of the type A viruses, 91.5 per cent
were H3N2 and 8.5 per cent were 2009 H1N1. The WHO also referred to
cases of swine-origin variant, H3N2v, in the United States, where it
is spreading to newer areas.

In a research finding that could help in bringing down fatal cases of Japanese encephalitis (JE), a team of IICT researchers has observed that mosquitoes transmitting Japanese Encephalitis follow a weather pattern, with the minimum infection rate differing with change in the climate

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: In a research finding that could help in bringing
down fatal cases of Japanese encephalitis (JE), a team of city
researchers has observed that mosquitoes transmitting JE follow a
weather pattern, with the minimum infection rate differing with
change in the climate.

In a sample research study in Kurnool district, scientists from the
bioinformatics group in the biology division of the Indian Institute
of Chemical Technology (IICT) have established a correlation with
various climatic factors. The virus infection in mosquitoes differed
during different seasons.

Infected mosquitoes transmit diseases to human beings and animals.
Their bite, however, does not cause any harm if they are not infected
with virus in case of Japanese encephalitis or protozoan in case of
malaria. Knowing the time when the mosquitoes are infected with the
disease-causing organisms helps in taking preventive measures, and
thus stops spread of fatal diseases like Japanese encephalitis.

The IICT team collected mosquitoes of the genus Culex and screened
them for Japanese encephalitis virus. The Culex species with infection
were Cx. tritaeniorhynchus and Cx. gelidus during winter when JE cases
are in high numbers. Mosquitoes collected during summer and rainy
seasons showed relatively less viral infection.

The study revealed that the minimum infection rate of JE transmitting
mosquitoes is modulated by various meteorological parametres. The
mosquito vector abundance increases during winter and decreases
significantly during summer. The minimum infection rate was also
higher during winter and lower during rainy and summer seasons, it
pointed out.

The JE virus thrives in a little over dozen mosquito species, though
Culex is the main host in the country. The other mosquito genera are
Aedes and anopheles. The main host is pig which serves as the
reservoir. The mosquito carries the disease-causing virus from pig to
man. Andhra Pradesh is one of the States with significant number of JE

In a major cause of concern, an international team of researchers has discovered a new disease that mimics AIDS and destroys the body immune system. The disease identified in elderly Asians, however, is not infectious and does not transmit from person to person like the AIDS

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: In a major cause of concern, an international team
of researchers has discovered a new disease that mimics AIDS and
destroys the body immune system. The disease identified in elderly
Asians, however, is not infectious and does not transmit from person
to person like the AIDS.

Moreover, this AIDS-like disease is not caused by the human
immunodeficiency virus. Since there is no pathogen or causative agent,
the disease cannot be spread from person to person through either body
fluids or other sources.

Doctors in India are yet to find out if the AIDS-like disease is
present in the country. City experts in infectious diseases point out
that they have not come across such cases so far, as no research study
has been done here. Many doctors including those attached to corporate
hospitals in the city feigned ignorance about this disease saying they
are yet to study the new finding.

This immunodeficiency syndrome causes damage to the immune system
throwing open the body to a myriad of infectious diseases,
particularly tuberculosis. The body loses immunity against fungal,
viral and bacterial infections too.

Many diseases in India go unnoticed, as hospitals are not equipped
with modern laboratory equipment to detect new pathogens. Acute
shortage of clinician scientists also adds to the problem. The Indian
Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had woken up to new diseases only
after scientists elsewhere discovered them. The super bug, New Delhi
Metallo-beta lactamase, is the best example.

Reporting its finding in the latest issue of international scientific
journal, New England Journal of Medicine, the team led by Sarah K
Browne of US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,
noted that the problem could be due to either genetic make up of
Asians or the local environment factors. The AIDS-like disease was
identified in a little over 200 patients from Thailand and Taiwan.
They had either pulmonary tuberculosis or other forms of TB, or
opportunistic infections. The patients do not respond to known

The researchers found the patients had an immune-system antibody,
whose presence had made their body system ineffective to fight
infections. This antibody nullifies the impact of a molecule,
interferon-gamma, which protects the body against diseases.

Though it is a solace that the disease is non-infectious, what is
worrying researchers is that it is capable of making people severely
ill, often resulting in death. An interesting aspect about the
research is that a detailed study of the functioning of
interferon-gamma would help in finding cure to viral diseases. Viral
diseases, at present, do not have a known cure.

The major difference between AIDS and AIDS-like disease is that in the
former case, antibodies are formed to fight virus, and in the latter,
the body creates antibodies to fight against itself.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

India once again successfully flight tests surface-to-surface Prithvi II missile from a launch complex at the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, Orissa

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 25: India on Saturday successfully flight tested
surface-to-surface Prithvi II missile from a launch complex at the
Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, Orissa.

The launch was carried out by the Strategic Force Command (SFC) of
Indian Army as part of regular training exercise.

According to an official statement by the Defence Development and
Research Organisation (DRDO) here, all radar, electro-optical systems
located along the coast tracked and monitored the parametres of the
missile throughout the flight path. An Indian naval ship located near
the target in the Bay of Bengal witnessed the final event.

Prithvi II is the first indigenous surface-to-surface strategic
missile, capable of attacking targets at range of 350 kms. During the
flight test, it reached the predefined target in the Bay of Bengal
with a very high accuracy of better than 10 metres. The single stage
liquid propelled vehicle developed by DRDO was inducted into the Armed

One of the missiles drawn from the inventory of Armed Forces was test
fired by the SFC. The vehicle is guided all through by an accurate
Inertial Navigation System (INS) and controlled by the thrust vector
control and aerodynamic control systems.

The entire launch operations were carried out by the Armed Forces and
monitored by the scientists of the DRDO. The flight test of the
Prithvi II missile met all the mission objectives and was perfect like
textbook launch.

Prithvi II missile has been successfully flight-tested a number of
times as part of development, induction and training exercises.
Saturday’s launch again proves the reliability of Prithvi and confirms
successful induction in services, the DRDO release said.

The team of Armed Forces and scientists were led by the Project
Director Siva Subramanyam and Programme Director, Adalat Ali.

DRDL director AK Chakraborti, associate director RCI G Satheesh Reddy,
Director, ITR,  MVKV Prasad and Dr Manjit Singh were present during
the flight test. Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister Dr V K
Saraswat, who was present during the flight  test, congratulated the
Armed Forces and scientists and other employees of DRDO for the
successful flight test.

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This Day In History

Mother's Care

Mother's Care
Minnu The Cat & Her Kittens Brownie, Goldie & Blackie

Someone with Nature

Someone with Nature
Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Under the shade of Baobab tree

Under the shade of Baobab tree
At Agha Khan Akademi in Kenya

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

Convention on Biodiversity
Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity