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Dr Upendranath Brahmachari: Remembering the Forgotten Genius and Saint of India

Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari was born in Jamalpur, Bihar on 19th December 1873

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Kala-Azar
Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari. Wikimedia
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  • Upendranath Brahmachari was born in Bihar in the year 1873
  • He grew up specializing in medicine and surgery
  • The doctor is said to have saved millions of lives through curing a viral disease called Kala-Azar

August 22, 2017: A renowned and prominent name in the hall of fame list of Indian scientists is Upendranath Brahmachari who was famous in the field of medicine.

Dr. Brahmachari’s most important work during his lifetime was his discovery of Urea Stibamine, a treatment for the fatal disease called Kala-Azar.

BACKGROUND: Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari was born in Jamalpur, Bihar on 19th December 1873. At the time, Bihar and Assam were in shambolic states. But Dr. Brahmachari had a fairly secure growing up phase. His father, Dr. Nilmony Brahmachari, was a famous medical practitioner in the Indian as well as European communities. Dr. Nilmony Brahmachari worked as a physician in East Indian Railways.

Dr. Upendranath did his schooling from Eastern Railway’s Boys High School. He loved math and had excellent academic records. The young genius went on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry and mathematics in 1893 from Hooghly Mohsin College. Further, Brahmachari did polymath. He got a Master’s degree in medicine from Kolkata’s Presidency College. His Ph.D. was a thesis on ‘Haemolysis’ which he earned in 1904.

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CAREER: Upendranath Brahmachari began his career as a doctor in Kolkata under Sir Gerald Bomford. Impressed by the talent, in 1901 Sir Bomford offered Brahmachari, who was 27 at the time, to teach physiology in Dacca Medical School.

Later in 1905, Brahmachari was appointed as a teacher in medicine and physician at Kolkata’s Campbell Medical School. This is where Dr. Brahmachari made some of his remarkable and outstanding discoveries, most notably, the discovery of Urea Stibamine.

This discovery was to become a significant treatment for the fatal disease called Kala-Azar. Kala-Azar is a disease strictly limited to the Mediterranean as well as South Asian nations. Sand flies are known to transmit this disease. Various characteristics broadly include irregular fever, anemia, and enlarged liver and spleen. Kala-Azar was known as the second largest parasitic killer of the world, followed by Malaria.

A treatment for Kala-Azar existed at the time but it was not helping the rapid death rates due to the disease. Dr. Brahmachari had been devoting his time to finding a treatment that had little to no disadvantages but could not come up with anything.

In 1919, his breakthrough came knocking at the door. The Indian Research Fund Association had granted resources to Brahmachari for conducting more in-depth research for the treatment of the disease. With this help, in his Campbell Medical School lab, the Doctor discovered Urea Stibamine.

Kala-Azar today is a rare disease only present in a handful of remote places. Especially in Assam where the disease thrived, many lives were saved.

Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari instantly became a popular figure in the Indian science academia. His discovery was now successfully incorporated into the growing scientific knowledge in medicine. His masterpiece “Treatise on Kala-Azar” became an essential reference reading in medicine. Moreover, his other works include treatment of malaria, dermal leishmaniasis, quartan fever, blackwater fever, and more.

Brahmachari retired in 1927 but continued to participate in Kolkata’s cultural and humanitarian activities. He stayed connected to all literary and scientific organizations in Kolkata.

Achievements: The World’s Second Blood Bank which was formed in Kolkata was driven by the efforts of Dr. Brahmachari. He was also the Head of Department for Biochemistry in Kolkata’s University College of Science, where he was also the Honorary Professor of Biochemistry.

The Asiatic Society of Bengal awarded Upendranath Brahmachari with ‘Sir William Jones Medal’. He was also awarded the Griffith Memorial Prize by the University of Kolkata. The Kolkata School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene awarded the Doctor a Minto Medal.

He became the first Indian to be elected as the chairman of Managing body of Kolkata Branch of the Indian Red Cross Society.

For his numerous contributions to science, he was awarded the title of Rai Bahadur in 1924. The same year, Brahmachari was also awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind gold medal.

In the year 1929, the famous scientist was honored with being nominated for the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine and almost won India the first Nobel Prize in the category, however, it was won by Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins and Christiaan Eijkman for their detailed work on vitamins. Brahmachari was also conferred a knighthood by the British Government in 1934.

Brahmachari was also conferred a knighthood by the British Government in 1934.

Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari’s name comes along with Satyendra Nath Bose as two main figures during the Bengal Rennaissance.

Death: On 6th February 1946, Brahmachari passed away aged 72. For his contributions to the Kolkata society’s well-being, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation changed the name of Loudon street to D.R UN Brahmachari Street.

 – Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter @Saksham2394


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Low Quality Drugs, Medicine Costs More Than Just Money

Even in high-income countries, purchasing cheaper medicines from illegitimate sources online could result in obtaining substandard or falsified medicines.

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Medicines
A seized counterfeit hydrocodone tablets in the investigation of a rash of fentanyl overdoses in northern California is shown in this Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). VOA

About one in eight essential medicines in low- and middle-income countries may be fake or contain dangerous mixes of ingredients that put patients’ lives at risk, a research review suggests.

Researchers examined data from more 350 previous studies that tested more 400,000 drug samples in low- and middle-income countries. Overall, roughly 14 percent of medicines were counterfeit, expired or otherwise low quality and unlikely to be as safe or effective as patients might expect.

“Low-quality medicines can have no or little active pharmaceutical ingredient [and] can prolong illness, lead to treatment failure and contribute to drug resistance,” said lead study author Sachiko Ozawa of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Or it may have a too much active ingredient and cause a drug overdose,” Ozawa said by email. “If it is contaminated or has other active ingredients, then the medication could cause poisoning, adverse drug interactions or avertable deaths.”

Much of the research to date on counterfeit or otherwise unsafe medicines has focused on Africa, and about half of the studies in the current analysis were done there.

 

medicines
One in five medications tested in Africa were fake. Pixabay

 

Almost one in five medications tested in Africa were fake or otherwise potentially unsafe, researchers report in JAMA Network Open.

 

Another third of the studies were done in Asia, where about 14 percent of medicines tested were found to be counterfeit or otherwise unsafe.

Antibiotics and antimalarials were the most tested drugs in the analysis. Overall, about 19 percent of antimalarials and 12 percent of antibiotics were falsified or otherwise unsafe.

While fake or improperly made medicines undoubtedly harm patients, the current analysis couldn’t tell how many people suffered serious side effects or died as a result of falsified drugs.

Researchers did try to assess the economic impact of counterfeit or improperly made medicines and found the annual cost might run anywhere from $10 billion to $200 billion.

While the study didn’t examine high-income countries, drug quality concerns are by no means limited to less affluent nations, Ozawa said.

Medicines
Different vaccines. Pixabay

“Even in high-income countries, purchasing cheaper medicines from illegitimate sources online could result in obtaining substandard or falsified medicines,” Ozawa said. “Verify the source before you buy medications, and make policymakers aware of the problem so they can work to improve the global supply chain of medicines.”

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how counterfeit or poorly made medicines directly harm patients, however. And the economic impact was difficult to assess from smaller studies that often didn’t include a detailed methodology for calculating the financial toll.

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The report “provides important validation of what is largely already known,” Tim Mackey of the Global Health Policy Institute in La Jolla, California, writes in an accompanying editorial.

“It is important to note that although the study is comprehensive, its narrow scope means it only provides a snapshot of the entire problem, as it is limited to studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries and to those
medicines classified as essential by the World Health Organization.” (VOA)