Activists seek testing of Ganga water for COVID-19 treatment 

#GS2 #Governance #GS3 #Science  

Mission under Jal Shakti Ministry sends the pitch to ICMR 

  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), an arm of the Jal Shakti Ministry that deals with the Ganga clean-up plan, has forwarded to the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) a proposal to undertake clinical trials and examine if Ganga water can be used to treat COVID-19 patients.  
  • The thrust of the proposal is that research for over a century — and most recently an investigation by the CSIR-National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute, Nagpur — had found that the upper stretches of the Ganga had several species of bacteriophages.   
  • Phages, are viruses that specifically target bacteria and are also extremely strain-specific.   
  • The phages may have anti-microbial properties and could potentially destroy bacteria such as Mycobacterium streptococcus and Pseudomonas Yersinia, it is unclear how phages — being viruses themselves — could have anti-viral properties.  
  • There’s no evidence that viruses can, even in principle, be used to destroy other viruses.   
  • Phage therapy has its uses in experimental medicine and has been used to treat infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  

‘Experimental medicine’  

  • The scale of the pandemic and the need for new drugs and treatment mean that there could be “immense benefit” from undertaking such studies on the lines of “experimental medicine.”  
  • NEERI, which is a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research organisation, has an ongoing study examining whether the phages in the Ganga water are responsible for destroying pathogens and delaying putrefaction.  
  • The considered opinion of CSIR-NEERI is that overall, clinical trial on water alone may not yield very useful results, though this would need the considered opinion of agencies such as ICMR.   
  • It is true Ganga water has special properties which is prominent in upper stretches. Since no virus related studies have been yet carried out, one could attempt a pilot in the Upper Regions of Ganga.  
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