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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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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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India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

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As Trump proposes changes in H1-B visa, India continues to engage with US

India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.

“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.

Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.

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It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages Flickr

The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.

The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.

The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.

The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.

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President Donald Trump speaks about immigration alongside family members affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, June 22, 2018, in Washington, VOA

In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.

“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

“We have highlighted the role which has been played by the highly skilled Indian professionals who have actually contributed to the growth and development of the US economy,” he stated.

“And also they have helped the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world towards innovation and science and technology.” (IANS)