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Meet on combating diseases

Jorhat, Dec. 7: Scientists from various parts of the country will converge on the Defence Research Laboratory in Tezpur on December 12 to brainstorm about designs to combat the outbreak of vector-borne diseases.

The theme of the two-day conference on Medical Arthropodology (study of insects) is herbal insecticides, biomedicine and bio-defence in vector-borne disease management. “The conference will provide a unique opportunity and common platform for scientists and researchers working in multi-disciplinary fields of life sciences and medical sciences to discuss the possible conventional and prospective herbal insecticide designs. It will also dwell on bio-medical and bio-defence significance of arthropods to help us get prepared in advance to combat effectively any untoward catastrophe where insects or their allies are carriers,” director of the institute, Vijay Veer, said.

DRL has come up with an herbal vaporiser and repellent to deal with mosquitoes. It has also developed a cost-effective long lasting “defence mosquito net” to protect the security forces operating in areas prone to vector-borne diseases. The laboratory has been working on multiple uses of bhut jolokia, which the scientists in the establishment feel would be of great benefit to the soldiers.

Apart from a project to make hand grenades from the chilli, the laboratory has also been working on a study to see if it could help soldiers’ weather the high altitude chill.

Veer said arthropodology is an incredibly exciting discipline with the largest number of species under a single specific animal group, the arthropods, highlighting their biomedical and bio-defence significance. “Arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans, centipedes and millipedes) are important in the functions and processes of most ecosystems as they constitute at least 75 per cent of all animal species on the earth. Most arthropods are not harmful to humans and many are highly beneficial organisms,” he said.

Veer said there are, however, many isolated groups of spiders, scorpions, mites, ticks and particularly insects are a concern for humans because they can affect through their poisonous bites and stings. “They also play a key role in the transmission of a large number of diseases. Vector-borne diseases are particularly rampant in tropical and sub-tropical countries. In India, malaria, dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis and Japanese encephalitis are considered major public health problems,” he said.

W. Selvamurthy, former distinguished scientist and chief controller (life sciences), Defence Research and Development Organisation and present president of Amity Science, Technology and Innovation Foundation as well as chair professor, life sciences, Amity University, will inaugurate the conference, while M.K. Mandal, director-general (life sciences), DRDO, will address the valedictory function. Apart from a few eminent scientists, nearly 100 delegates are expected to take part in the conference.