The return of the phage! GMO phage.

Antibiotic resistance is racing through the world and a growing number of pathogens are becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Even worse, extreme drug resistance is growing where the pathogen is resistant to all known antibiotics. An increasing number of such cases end in death. 

It is not just about diseases like drug resistant tuberculosis. A simple finger cut infected by antibiotic resistant bacteria can result in amputation of the arm or death. Such pathogens have started spreading within hospitals and the victims are usually patients who have undergone surgery.

Since 1919, even before antibiotics were discovered, phages have been used to treat diseases. Phages are viruses that kill the bacteria. For every known bacterium, there is some type of phage out there which feeds on the bacteria and kills it.

The amazing effectiveness of antibiotics ensured that the use of phages stopped and disappeared. No further research happened on phages.

Now, it appears that not only can we fight drug resistant bacteria with naturally occurring phages, we can also genetically engineer phages to target any specific kind of bacteria. As this article suggests –  https://www.wsj.com/articles/genetically-engineered-viruses-treat-antibiotic-resistant-infection-11557334800

Now this is GMO research even the environmentalists should welcome!

I now hope that phages research progresses rapidly and phage based solutions become widely available before antibiotic resistant diseases ravage our planet and hundreds of millions of people die. This scary scenario is now inevitable unless we figure out new ways of curing antibiotic resistant disease.

Theranos and Napster ?


Reference link – https://onezero.medium.com/post-theranos-startups-are-still-out-for-blood-5d5c43cf3376

The fall of Theranos did not wipe out the pin prick diagnostics industry.

On the contrary, it is much like Napster, which went down but laid the foundation for the enormous disruption of the music industry. 

Napster showed the way and the opportunity for download and streaming services and today’s music industry owes much to the fact that Napster existed when it did. Apple, Spotify and so much more…

Theranos, similarly showed how big the market is and investor interest is for successful, edge of the network diagnostics.

So now we have many more companies doing very interesting work in the space. The diagnostics industry is going to see significant disruption. 

Much of the diagnostics technologies, labs and methods of today are going to be replaced in the next decade. They will be replaced by superior technologies, devices, tests, at the edge of the network and at much lower costs.

Jaggery is just as bad as sugar for our kids

Reference link – http://foodnetindia.in/blog/2019/02/21/chappati-with-jaggery-and-ghee-is-not-a-nutritious-meal/

There is this widespread nutritional superstition in India which says refined sugar is bad but unrefined sugar (jaggery) is good for you.

This is wrong.

While unrefined sugar may have some small additional mineral value, excess will harm you and your children in the same way that refined sugar will.

Our children are getting way too much sugar in their diets from too many sources. Feeding them more is not a good idea. It does not help that people like Rujuta Diwekar are spreading this kind of superstitious myth.

Your kitchen gas is dirty fuel

Reference link – https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/03/1034031

Indoor air pollution is as big a killer as outdoor air pollution.

There are several reasons for high indoor air pollution. One of them is the so called “clean fuels” in the kitchen.

People mistakenly believe that LPG gas stoves is “clean fuel” and “non polluting”. This notion is false.

Lighting up an LPG stove in your kitchen is like running a petrol vehicle engine in your kitchen. I would argue that the vehicle is less polluting because it is Bharat Stage V compliant and has filters that clean up the exhaust gases. The gas stove has no such thing!

Please ensure that your kitchen has a powerful chimney plus exhaust fan and that it is working well. It must be used every time the gas stove is switched on.

Will Indians be left behind in genetic therapies?

Reference article – https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/lack-of-diversity-in-genetic-datasets-is-risky-for-treating-disease-65631

Will South Asians be slow to benefit from genetic therapies?

India must accelerate the collection of genetic and genomic data within the country. The government must invest heavily and not leave this only to the private sector.

We can’t have a situation a few years down the line, where data from South Asian populations is not as valuable for predictive or therapeutic use, as it is for Caucasian populations.

We already see very low investment in “poor man’s diseases” – for example in treatment of infectious diseases.

The developed world has very low incidence of water borne or vector borne disease. As antibiotic resistance is accelerating in countries like India, investments in new treatments for several diseases are not keeping pace. It’s the “poor man’s problem” and market forces have insufficient incentive to invest.

India must ensure that it’s citizens are able to benefit from the health technology revolution by building deep and large South Asian genetic and genomic databases.

Sugar kills more people than gunpowder every year

“Sugar kills more people than gunpowder every year”

How true. 

Sugar (Sucrose and Fructose) are the biggest killers of our times. And sugar kills painfully and slowly through metabolic disease. 

The problem is it’s addictive nature. Sugar may be more addictive than cocaine.

In my opinion, there is no way to solve this unless we have a safe substitute for our tastebuds.

The artificial sweeteners are not working because they have safety issues. Some “safe” alternatives like stevia have taste and flavour issues.

There is some interesting work happening to solve these problems. 

One approach I read about is to isolate the sweetening compound from stevia and figuring out some other way of manufacturing it. This isolated compound does not have the taste issues present in stevia, which are due to some of the other compounds in it.

Another possible solution is inert sugar alcohols. Erythritol for example. Cost effective production of erythritol is a challenge which some companies are working to overcome. The other sugar alcohols are not so inert and cause gastric distress.

There is an interesting direction being explored by this Israeli company, using another sweetener that is available in a tropical plant. Read about it at this link – https://medium.com/s/2069/in-the-future-your-food-will-be-sweetened-with-protein-e7659485731e?

I am sure other approaches will emerge too. The world needs something to reduce sugar consumption. Sugar is the tobacco of our age.

We will win 4 times the number of Olympic medals

The other day I noticed that my 26 year old son and most of his peers were taller and better built than my generation of urban Indians. And we were taller than their grand parents (our parents.)

As access to nutrition is improving for a large number of children and mothers, the population of healthy youngsters who are closer to their genetic height potential is increasing rapidly in India.

If (let’s say) 1 or 2 percent of the young people were as tall as they should be in our generation 25 years ago, in today’s India, it could be 4 percent or higher.

This means that the population that has the physical potential to compete and participate at the highest level of sports and athletics was half a million 25 years ago, it is possibly 2 million today.

So, as a sporting nation, going by the numbers of youngsters who would be a relevant population for high level sports, 25 years ago we were possibly the size of a small country like Albania and today we are probably the size of Ireland.

But the good news is that this is changing fast.

Within a decade or so, we will be much larger. By 2025, we could be almost as large as Israel and by 2035, as large as a Canada or Australia.

In parallel, the percentage of these youngsters with access to good sports facilities and coaching is increasing too.

Let’s expect that by 2035, India will be winning 3-5 times the number of medals it currently wins in the olympics.

It will still be way below our potential as a country.

To accelerate this, we need to ensure that more of our mothers and children get adequate nutrition.

90 percent of Indian parents suck at parenting

Here is a shocking statistic from the NFHS4 (National Family Health Survey) –

“Only 11.6% children (breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding) of 6-23 months of age receive an adequate diet.”

Going further

“The combination of high stunting, wasting and poor IYCF (Infant and young child feeding) stem from multiple deprivations and chronic malnutrition continues to be the dominant epidemiological concern”

Let’s rephrase the first sentence to say the truth plainly –

“India is a country where about 90 percent of the children under the age of 2 do not receive proper food or nourishment.” Jai Hind. Mera Bharat Mahaan. Bharat Mata Ki Jai.

Shameful! Chulloo bhar paani mein doob maro. That’s for the people whose chest swells with pride when we speak of our country.

For the others, there is no shame. It is sadness. It is helplessness. It’s a desire to set it right. And a sense of urgency to act.

Where are we going wrong? Why are we allowing this mammoth tragedy to continue? What needs to be done to solve this?

Conditions like stunting, if not checked and reversed by the time the child is about 2 years old, tend to be a lifelong, irreversible problem.

Why are we condemning an entire future generation this way? Where are our priorities? Why is not 20 percent of the union budget (and not less than 1%) allocated to child and maternal health? Is this not the single biggest issue that faces us?

Read more here – and cry – https://indianpediatrics.net/aug2018/653.pdf

 

Is your (South Asian) baby at risk of heart disease later in life?

Here is a very interesting thing I read in this article I refer to in this post – “The body’s metabolism adapts to low nutrition in early life, and later, a high carbohydrate diet gives rise to higher fat deposition especially in the abdomen”

I am inclined to agree.

I do not believe that the South Asian male is genetically predisposed to abdominal fat accumulation or that he is genetically predisposed to heart disease or that he is predisposed to it’s key risk factors.

The poor nutritional status of mothers in South Asia, the poor nutritional status of children under the age of five, the carbohydrate heavy and protein poor adult diets, the widespread micronutrient deficiencies. Each of these and more are the major contributors to high rates of abdominal obesity, visceral fat, heart disease and diabetes in India.

Let’s not blame poor genetics. Let’s also not start hunting for a “new normal” and use the existing poor health indicators to establish a lower “South Asian” baseline.

Our children will grow to be just as healthy, fit, strong, tall and athletic as their Caucasian counterparts. If their mothers were healthy and so they had good birth weight, if they had adequate and diverse nutrition in early childhood and ate a nutrient rich and balanced diet as teenagers and adults.

Here is the link to the article. Some of which I agree with and much that I do not – https://www.theweek.in/health/cover/2018/08/11/diet-and-the-indian-heart.html