Author Archives: Bala Murali Krishna Yelchuri

About Bala Murali Krishna Yelchuri

Science Journalist,Media Consultant and Journalism Educator, based in Hyderabad,capital city of Andhra Pradesh State, an emerging Silicon Valley of South India.Born on August 10,1952, completed Ph.D.,M.Phil and MA in JMC, MBA in HRD,Dip in Teaching Journalism(Berlin) and Dip in Advanced Journalism(Praha). Worked for over 35 years in the premier multi-lingual national news agency - United News of India(UNI) -in different capacities and places in India. Happily married to Krishna Kumari and have daughter Krishna Jyothi(Journalist-Hyderabad) and son Vamsi Krishna(Engineer-Noida). Life member-Indian Science Writers Association and Master Resource Person to the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC-Ministry of S&T-Govt of India). Life member Museums Association of India and President, Andhra Pradesh Journalists Union (APJU).Core committee member Malkolak Knowledge Centre,Hyderabad.

ICT to save 19 million dissection animals each year in Indian schools

As many as 19 million frogs, mice, cockroaches, guinea pigs, rats and rabbits, hitherto butchered in zoology and life science laboratories in India every year, will henceforth be saved from the slaughter.

 Thanks to the wisdom and concern shown at last by the University Grants Commission (UGC), the apex regulatory body for higher education inIndia, Buckled under pressure from environmental activists.

The UGC has come out with new guidelines that progressively prohibit dissection of these poor animals for experimentation.

On the other hand, the UGC encourages introduction of digital technologies in all such educational institutions to teach animal anatomy and physiology, reiterating its commitment to preserve and protect wildlife and environment.

For both UG and PG programs, there shall be reduction in the number of animals for dissection and experimentation as well as in the number of species with all ethical considerations. Preference shall be given to laboratory bred animal models, the guidelines say.

One of the recommendations limits and specifies the animal use in dissections. The experimental animal, to the best extent possible, should be procured from laboratory bred sources, especially breeders approved by Committee for Purpose of Care and Supervision of Experimental Animals (CPCSEA), Department of Environment and Forests. Their use will be under the purview of Institutional Animal Ethics Committee (IAEC), Removal of animals from their natural habitats should be best avoided.

 

“UG students can adopt ‘only one species’ for ‘demonstration only’ by the faculty and ‘students should not do any dissection’. In lieu of this, Curriculum must be developed to encourage students to take up field work,” one of the recommendations says.

 

“For undergraduate programs, both at major and allied levels, the students shall not be required to dissect any animal. The Curriculum Board, if of the opinion that these students should be exposed to internal organization of animals, my prescribe anatomy of anyone animal species which can be, bred/cultured on a large scale. “

“Here, the teachers shall only demonstrate the dissection of one or more aspects of anatomy, which the students will observe and record. Coming to examination, if at all found necessary, the students may be required to flag label specific parts in the specimens already dissected by the teachers and kept ready.”

 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)-India, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to animal welfare, hailed it as a “major victory for animals” achieved with its continued efforts.

 

“The UGC’s decision follows PETA’s extensive campaign, which included letters to the chair and expert committee of the UGC, petitions from students and other caring individuals asking for a dissection ban and an appeal from actor Rahul Bose,” the NGO today claimed.

 

Soon undergraduate students will no longer be required to dissect animals and dissection will be optional for postgraduate students. Universities should also adhere to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which prohibits the killing of amphibians and certain insects, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

 

The recommendations also call for modern non-animal systems like software to replace the use of animals for experimentation. Dr BK Sharma, member of the expert committee that advised UGC and Associate Professor & Head, Department of Zoology, RL Saharia Government PG College estimates this move will save the lives of about 19 million animals each year.

 

“By eliminating animal dissection and phasing out animal experimentation, Indian’s top university governing body is making sure that students use the most modern education tools possible, meaning computer models over animals”, says PETA India Science Policy Advisor Dr Chaitanya Koduri. “Compassionate students across the country will now be able to learn without being forced to hurt and kill animals in the classroom.”

 

The UGC’s panel of experts agree with the findings of nearly every published comparative study in science-education literature: non-animal methods – including computer simulations, interactive CD-ROMs, films, charts and lifelike models – teach anatomy and complex biological processes as well as or better than inhumane and archaic animal laboratories.

 

Research has shown that a significant number of students at every educational level are uncomfortable with the use of animals in dissection and experimentation, and some even turn away from scientific careers rather than violate their principles, activists claimed.

//EOM//

New Butterfly Species Identified in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

The Nature is a treasure house of wonders. As we go on unlocking its secrets, more remains to be discovered. So is the hunt for finding new butterfly species.

New cryptic species a) Prepona laertesECO01 and b) Prepona laertesECO02, with interim names waiting for full characterization. Dorsal view. Humberto Bahena.

Mexican Scientists, led by Carmen Pozo of El Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Mexico, have claimed to have identified the new species while making a study on the Nymphalidae family of butterflies population in the Yucatan peninsula.

They had reported this in “Beyond the Colours: Discovering Hidden Diversity in the Nymphalidae of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico through DNA Barcoding” in the latest online journal PLoS ONE 6(11): e27776.

“Approximately 570 species of Nymphalidae have been reported in Mexico, and 121 of these occur in the Yucatan peninsula. Using DNA bar-coding, which uses the sequence of a standard short gene segment to provide information about biodiversity, they found evidence for several previously undiscovered, so-called ‘cryptic’  species that now await characterization,” the journal reported.

The researchers had also noticed four cases where specimen had been misidentified based on the appearance. They had later corrected these erroneous classifications based on the DNA, highlighting the potential utility of this method.

There are about 160,000 known species of butterflies and moths in the world and scientists believe that a similar number still remains undiscovered.

Identification and characterization of these species is a complex process because each species has an immature caterpillar and a mature butterfly form, as well as the reliance on the physical appearance for classification.

The latest DNA-based bar-coding technique came handy to the scientists for easy identification and characterization of the species.

“This investigation has revealed overlooked species in a well-studied museum collection of Nymphalid butterflies and suggests that there is a substantial incidence of cryptic species that await full characterization.

 

The utility of bar-coding in the rapid identification of caterpillars also promises to accelerate the assembly of information on life histories, a particularly important advance for hyper diverse tropical insect assemblages,” the researchers observed.

India Among 15 Nations Tops in Child Pneumonia Deaths: IVAC Study

India Among 15 Nations Tops in Child Pneumonia Deaths: IVAC Study – Breastfeeding for six months, early diagnosis and medicine, effective health delivery and smoke-free cooking could prevent the deaths in developing countries Hyderabad ,Nov 21: India, an emerging economic superpower along with China in Asia, but with below 1 per cent of its GDP spending on public health, registers the highest number of child pneumonia deaths in the world.


Yet, it has not yet introduced the new generation anti-pneumonia vaccinations (PCV 10/PCV13) in its immunization programme along with China, Indonesia and Burkina Faso which also had competed with India in recording high pneumonia related deaths.

“As many as 3- 4 million child deaths could be prevented by accelerating use of pneumococcal vaccines in all developing countries over the next decade,” says A Pneumonia Progress Report-2011 released recently by the International Vaccine Access Centre(IVAC) under the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health(USA).

The report, based on a study of 15 developing countries with disturbing incidence of Pneumonia, had also suggested a 4-pronged strategy to augment the drive to save more children from the scourge.
1. Promoting exclusive breastfeeding of the kids during their first six months of life to boost immunity to infection;
2. Facilitating early detection of symptoms to administer appropriate anti-biotics on time;
3. Strengthening health delivery systems and care on routine basis; and
4. Limiting exposure to indoor smoke by increased use of smoke free stoves.
While the governments had been making all efforts to promote breast feeding through public spending, the early detection of Pneumonia, leave alone other diseases, has become increasingly difficult in the developing world, mostly due to illiteracy, negligence and lack of awareness even among the literates until the situation goes out of hand.
The rich could afford going to the costly corporate hospitals for treatment whereas the poor approach the mostly ill-equipped government hospitals at the eleventh hour, risking the life of the kids, resulting in increasing mortality.
Notably, Indian health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had recently announced increase of the health budget to 2 – 3 per cent of the GDP during the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) keeping in mind the demand for the sector as a social welfare measure.
Another major problem, also admitted by the WHO, is use of smoke emitting traditional stoves for cooking that work on fossil fuel in a majority of the rural areas in the 15 countries studied by the IVAC.
Some regional governments in India,, like Andhra Pradesh, had introduced schemes to offer gas stoves and LPG connections free of cost or on subsidies to the poor. But it had become a major burden to the exchequer in the hydrocarbon controlled economies.
India recorded the highest 371,605 child pneumonia deaths in 2008 followed by Nigeria (177,212), Congo (112,655), Pakistan (84,210), Afghanistan (80,694) and China (62,229).
Yet, there was “no action” till date on the introduction of the new generation PCV10 and PCV13 Pneumococcal Vaccines in India, China, Indonesia and Burkina Faso into the national immunization program.
Only Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya had introduced the vaccines, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Bangladesh had applied while Pakistan, Angola, Niger, Uganda and Tanzania had approved.

“The speed at which PCV10 and PCV13 are being introduced in low-income countries is unprecedented and is expected to have tremendous health impacts. It is estimated that by 2013, 11 of the15 countries profiled will have introduced the pneumococcal vaccines into their national immunization programs,” the IVAC report says.

The study also noted that only 69 per cent of children with suspected pneumonia, on par with Pakistan, were hospitalized while 13 per cent got antibiotics and only 46 per cent got exclusive breast feeding in the first six months.
Ethiopia has registered the lowest 19 per cent of its children with pneumonia sent to a health facility as also 5 per cent getting antibiotics whereas their breastfeeding rate was 49 per cent, more than India.
Uganda topped the list of 15 nations under study with 60 per cent of their kids getting breastfed in the first six months. Niger recorded the lowest 10 per cent followed by Angola 10 per cent and Nigeria 13 per cent.
China however tops the list of countries with 99 per cent of children immunized for Pertusis as also Measles in 2010, followed by Angola (91, 93) and Burkina Faso(95,94) as against India(72,74) respectively.
Quoting WHO, the IVAC report said every year, pneumonia claims more than one million children before their fifth birthday – accounting for more young deaths than AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined. This loss of life is especially tragic because pneumonia is preventable and treatable.
The World Health Assembly in 2010 resolved that all countries should make the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP) of the WHO and UNICEF a national priority. The IVAC had been monitoring and reporting the progress of the implementation of the interventions to combat pneumonia.
While the report noted steady increase in coverage of vaccines against Pertusis (17 per cent) and Measles (21 per cent) since the year 2000 among the 15 focus countries including India and China as against the target of 90 per cent reach, it regretted that four of these countries have yet to introduce HiB vaccine against deadly Influenza in the 20 years since its introduction.
By introducing PCV vaccines in low-income countries, faster than HiB vaccine, 158 million additional children in these countries get protected over the next decade, with hectic efforts being made through GAVI Alliance.
In December 2010, Nicaragua became the first country in the developing world to introduce the newest formulation of PCV(13), less than a year after it was introduced in the USA. Since World Pneumonia Day 2010, 23 more countries introduced it, the report claimed.
Surprisingly, India, China, Indonesia, and Burkina Faso had not yet taken any “action’ for the introduction of the new generation PCV vaccines, while Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya had already introduced them.
So is the status with India, Nigeria, China and Indonesia in non-introduction of HiB Vaccine till 2010.
“By tackling pneumonia in these 15 countries alone, we can help eliminate up to three-quarters of the world’s Pneumonia burden, and take one of the biggest steps yet toward achieving Millennium Development Goal 4, a two-thirds reduction in child mortality,” the report observed.
Source: Pneumonia Progress Report 2011. http://worldpneumoniaday.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/IVAC-2011_PNEUMONIA_PROGRESS_REPORT.pdf