Monday December 16, 2019

Coral Reefs: Natural sources of cancer medicines

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coral_reef_4By Meghna

What do Lakshwadeep Islands, the islands of the Gulf of Mannar, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the islands of the Gulf of Kachch have in common?

All of them have Coral Reefs.

To a common man, coral reefs would simply appear as hordes of beautiful colours and shapes, scattered across rocks, under crystal blue waters. But, in reality there is much more to coral reefs than just their beauty and vibrancy.

Not everyone knows that Coral reefs have medicinal properties. The substances extracted from Coral Reefs are well known to be used in making medicines for a wide variety of diseases, ranging from diabetes and heart diseases to Alzheimer’s.

A substance extracted from the Caribbean sea sponge, is used to manufacture a medicine named Ara-C, which is a popularly known and widely used medicine in chemotherapy treatments of people diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma.

Another medicine, Yondelis, which is extracted from sea squirt, is used in Europe to treat sarcoma.

“Coral reefs have an incredible diversity of life—from plants, animals and fungi down to the tiniest micro-organism. And this diversity holds so much potential for medical research. In fact, we are 300 to 400 times more likely to find that next big medical breakthrough in our reefs than on land,” Stephanie Wear, a marine scientist at The Nature Conservancy foundation was quoted by a website.

Many coastal communities and even nations—depend on coral reefs for their livelihoods, but, due to climate change, overfishing, pollution, and unsustainable coastal development, the reefs are now endangered. In fact, the coral reefs of the caribbean are known to have diminished upto 90% already! Due to discarded fishing gears,coastal erosion, development, deforestation and other terrestrial activities, increasing sediment loads are being transported to coral reefs via river discharges and surface run off. A combined analysis data spanning 25 years has revealed that in the Caribbean, coral reefs are declining at a rate of 5.5% – 9.2% per year. In the Indo-Pacific region, a 2% loss of coral reefs per year has been estimated. These activities have posed a severe threat to the coral reefs.

Today, 33% of coral species are listed on the ‘Red List of endangered species’ of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Scientists nowadays have been cultivating the coral reefs in nurseries and when they have matured sufficiently, they are restored back into the sea. The survival of coral reefs is essential for mankind to thrive, because they contain answers to a myriad of ailments.

It is quite possible that many of the benefits of these reefs are still unknown to us. Who knows, with the progress of science, we might just be able to get remedies for more and more ailments.

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Kids in LMICs Receive Excessive Amount of Antibiotic Prescriptions

Kids in low income countries prescribed excess antibiotics

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Antibiotic Prescriptions
Children who receive excessive antibiotic prescriptions may lose the ability to fight pathogens. Pixabay

Kids in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are receiving an excessive amount of antibiotic prescriptions that could harm the children’s ability to fight pathogens as well as increase antibiotic resistance worldwide, warns a new study.

Children in these countries received 25 antibiotic prescriptions through age five – a “remarkable” estimate, given that two antibiotic prescriptions per year is considered excessive in many high-income settings, said the study published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

“We knew children in LMICs are sick more often, and we knew antibiotic prescription rates are high in many countries. What we did not know was how these elements translate into actual antibiotic exposure – and the results are rather alarming,” said lead author of the study Gunther Fink from Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), Basel, Switzerland.

Antimicrobial resistance is one of today’s biggest threats to global health and development, according to the World Health Organization.

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Children in LMICs received 25 antibiotic prescriptions through age. Pixabay

One factor contributing to this global health threat is the excessive use of antibiotics worldwide.

The research team from Swiss TPH and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US analysed data from 2007-2017 from health facilities and household surveys from eight countries: Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nepal, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Results showed that antibiotics were administered in 81 per cent of cases for children with a respiratory illness, in 50 per cent for children with diarrhoea, and in 28 per cent for children with malaria.

The researchers found that the number of antibiotic prescriptions in early childhood varied from country to country.

While a child in Senegal received approximately one antibiotic prescription per year in the first five years of life, a child in Uganda was prescribed up to 12.

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In comparison, a prior study showed that children under five in Europe receive less than one antibiotic prescription per year on average.

“This number is still high given that the vast majority of infections in this age group are of viral origin,” said study co-author Valerie D’Acremont from Swiss TPH. (IANS)