Tuesday June 25, 2019

India and Africa are the next Destination for Malaria Parasites: Study

Sri Lanka is supposed to be malaria-free and it too should start worrying.

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Malaria, Wikimedia

Bengaluru, Feb 3, 2017: Detection of malaria parasites resistant to the front line artemisinin (ART) combination therapy in some south Asian countries should worry India, Govindarajan Padmanabhan a top biochemist and malaria researcher at the Indian Institute of Science here has warned.

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Africa and India can as well be the superbug’s next destination and, if it spreads, this will pose a disaster, Padmanabhan told this correspondent, adding: Sri Lanka is supposed to be malaria-free and it too should start worrying.

The British journal Lancet Infectious Diseases had recently reported that P. falciparum malaria parasites resistant to both ART and its widely used partner drug, piperaquine, are now spreading quickly throughout western Cambodia, southern Laos and northeastern Thailand.

The study, by researchers at Mahidol University in Thailand and Oxford University, warned that the consequences of resistance spreading further into India and Africa could be grave if drug resistance is not tackled from a global public health emergency perspective.

Artemisinin, also known as qinghaosu — extracted from the Artemisia annua plant — is a powerful and perhaps the only really effective anti-malarial at present. But because ART has a very short half-life, the World Health Organisation had insisted that it should only be used as a combination with another long-acting anti-malarial.

Thus came the combination therapies: ART-lumefantrine, ART-meflaquine, ART- Sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine (ART-SP) and Dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DHA-PPQ).

Padmanabhan said that over the years, the malaria parasite had developed resistance even to many combination therapies, except DHA-PPQ, that had remained very effective.

Now the recent report of the parasite’s resistance to this combination also is really worrisome.

The spread of resistance will be a huge challenge to health workers, he said. This challenge will always go on and that is why I really want to try ART-curcumin combination, which may be an answer to resistance development, the scientist noted.

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Curcumin, is the compound that gives turmeric (haldi) its trademark bright yellow colour.

The ART-curcumin combination is unique, with potential advantages over the known combination therapies, Padmanabhan said. In trials carried out on mice, three oral doses of curcumin following a single injection of artemisinin to infected mice were able to ensure almost 100 per cent survival of the animals.

In addition to having a direct killing effect as an anti-malarial, curcumin is also able to prime the immune system against malaria parasites in mice rendering the combination to act like a therapeutic vaccine, Padmanabhan said.

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Thus, this combination has unique potential to prevent parasite recrudescence and relapse. Besides it is cheap and no resistance against it is known since it is a dietary supplement.

Padmanaban and his team are hoping to start human trials of an artemisinin-curcumin combination therapy in both simple malaria cases and in the treatment of the deadly cerebral malaria. He said regulatory clearances are awaited.

(IANS)

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Microsoft Ready to Help Indian Startups, Says President Anant Maheshwari

Microsoft is focused as much on selling third party solutions as their own, and this co-sell motion has helped generate $8 billion in revenue for partners within 18 months

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FILE - Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

Armed with a cutting-edge technology platform, a well-established partner organisation and an expansion of M12 venture fund, Microsoft is ready to help Indian startups across the spectrum embrace the next phase of growth, Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India, said here on Monday.

India, which saw a tremendous growth in the startup space in the last couple of years, is now witnessing a growth in the business-to-business (B2B) tech startups coming up with innovative ideas to deal with local problems.

“With our intelligent tech expertise, deep focus on trust and unique global go to market partnering, we empower unicorns and startups to scale sustainably at a global level,” said Maheshwari.

“We remain excited about India’s entrepreneurial startup potential and will continue to accelerate it as a growth engine for the economy,” he added.

India witnessed a dramatic rise of eight unicorns in 2018 from among the start-ups across verticals as against a mere nine in six years from 2011 till 2017, according to IT industry apex body Nasscom.

The start-ups joining the select club for their valuation over $1 billion are Oyo Rooms (hospitality), Zomato and Swiggy (food delivery), Udaan (retailer marketplace), Byju’s, (edu-tech), Paytm Mall (e-tail), Freshworks (software programmer) and Policybazaar (digital insurance).

Maheshwari said Microsoft is uniquely positioned to support Indian startups to achieve scale and evolve from market ready to enterprise ready.

Microsoft, Taiwan AI
A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

The introduction of M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, in India in February is creating new value for startups, VCs and the company itself to maintain the pace and direction of innovation.

“M12 is looking at investing in innovators who have aligned their focus on cutting-edge technologies that better enable digital transformation. The portfolio development team at M12 is specifically built to help support and scale companies by leveraging the expansive resources of Microsoft,” said the company.

According to reports, venture capital investments in Indian tech business-to-business (B2B) start-ups have been trending upwards, with over $3.09 billion raised in equity funding across 415 deals in 2018 — 28 per cent more than $2.41 billion in 2017.

Also Read: Facebook’s Push to Become China’s WeChat May Kill it

Under the “Microsoft for Startups” initiative, startups can co-sell with Microsoft sales teams, get access to top tech VCs in the global arena and mentorship from industry veterans.

In less than 18 months, Microsoft for Startups has closed more than 120 co-sell deals with more than $126 million in active pipeline for startups.

Microsoft is focused as much on selling third party solutions as their own, and this co-sell motion has helped generate $8 billion in revenue for partners within 18 months. (IANS)