With the aim to specifically cater to the Indian health scenario, the India chapter of Programme for Appropriate Technologies in Health (PATH), a global NGO working in 70 countries, is in the process of developing a vaccine for diarrheal diseases and a drug for treating the deadly Kala Azar disease.
Tarun Vij, programme leader of PATH in India, speaking to Times of India (TOI) said that the rotavirus, which kills as many as 1.25 lakh children with severe diarrhoea in first five weeks of birth, needs to be tackled at war footing in all south Asian countries including India.
Under its vaccine development programme, PATH is making efforts to develop a low cost, safe and effective vaccine. “The vaccine trials are in phase III of clinical trials,” added Vij, who was in the city to attend the pre-conference CME of a three-day national meet on women’s health. The conference, hosted by Preventive and Social Medicine (PSM) department, Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), begins from Tuesday.
“Mostly diarrhoea is treated through rehydration, maintaining sanitation and drinking boiled water. However, these strategies don’t work with the deadly rotavirus. Though rotavirus vaccine is available in developed world, it is not available in south Asian countries and if imported is too expensive to be introduced under public health programme. Hence the need to locally develop a region specific low cost vaccine,” Vij explained.
Path is also developing drugs for various neglected tropical diseases like Kala Azar, which is occurs by a micro-organism, a protozoan called Leishmania donovani. The disease affects approximately 40,000 individuals, mainly children in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. PATH is conducting a combination therapy trial in collaboration with ‘Oneworld Health’, an affiliate of Path, with Paromomycin, an antibiotic used against the disease causing organism.
Vij said that considering the huge population diversity and the associated disease burden in India, the ongoing innovations on health front could prove to be a boon in solving many problems in the country besides south Asian countries. “We need to make health services available, affordable and acceptable to majority population which the government alone cannot handle. Prevention obviously remains our priority,” he added.
PATH, through the ‘sure start’ programme, has successfully implemented many maternal and child health programmes, especially safe motherhood practices in eight districts of Uttar Pradesh covering 5550 villages besides seven cities of Maharashtra. through the ‘sure start’ programme reaching out to mothers and mother-in-laws.
However, the programme ‘Papa ke naam chitthi’, a programme focusing on fathers, is a huge success. This programme primarily targets fathers directing them to take care of the mother for a healthy baby.
The largest and most successful PATH initiative has been the Japanese encephalitis vaccination programme. Under the programme, which was implemented with technical support from the union ministry of health and family welfare, over 84 million children in the country were vaccinated in the last six and half years.
“Our urban intervention programme, using a special tracking system for vaccination in five Mumbai slums with majority migrant population, has yielded amazing results. It can be replicated in other big cities too,” Vij said.
Source: Times of India