Saturday April 20, 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.

Next Story

New York City’s Mandatory Measles Vaccination Order Stands Still

The health department's lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.

In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.

The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.

Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.

The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons, or cite concerns — debunked by medical science — that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.

The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.

He also dismissed assertions in the petition disputing the “clear and present danger” of the outbreak. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” the judge said.

FILE PHOTO: A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019.
A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019. VOA

Secret identities

The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine.

The court challenge was brought in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court by five people identified only as parents living in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect their children’s’ privacy, their lawyers said.

In court on Thursday, they told Knipel the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”

The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine. Pixabay

The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak.

Also Read: Short-Circuit Likely The Cause of Notre Dame Fire, Claims Police Investigators

The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week. (VOA)