MELBOURNE: For over a decade since he began work on the World Well being Organisation’s Geneva workplace in 1966, Dr Dhiman Barua — who promoted using Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and saved thousands and thousands of lives in growing international locations — tried exhausting to persuade his friends that oral salts may reduce down deaths resulting from cholera and diarrheal ailments. Then in the future in 1978, he by chance bumped into the then director basic Dr Halfdan Malher within the parking storage.
Barua — then an peculiar staffer who largely saved to himself — managed to strike a quick dialog with Malher to clarify to him his thought of a particular programme to sort out diarrhoea and cholera and handed him an ORS packet which might be the “gamechanger” on this battle.
At the moment, costly intravenous saline remedy was used to counter these ailments and hospital docs regarded oral rehydration remedy as second-class remedy. In developed international locations, there have been fears that sodium focus within the formulation was too excessive for youngsters.
“The duo solely talked for a couple of minutes, however Malher instantly realised the affect this life-saving resolution may have. He determined to hunt funding for the Diarrhoeal Illness Management Programme (CDD) which might ultimately be led by Dr Barua. And the remaining is historical past,” recalled Barua’s colleague and pal Dr Olivier Fontaine as he spoke to TOI forward of what would have been Barua’s 100th birthday on October 19. Barua handed away in Geneva in August this yr.
“Dr Barua by no means obtained the popularity he deserved,” mentioned Dr Micheal Merson, Wolfgang Joklik Professor of International Well being at Duke College, who helmed CDD after Barua’s retirement.
“There was a lot recognition of researchers who found oral rehydration remedy and undertook research to point out its effectiveness however little or no recognition of the achievement of the imaginative and prescient that Dr Barua needed to lengthen the remedy around the globe,” Merson instructed TOI.
A 2019 research printed within the ‘Journal of International Well being’ had discovered that the variety of diarrheal deaths in youngsters had been decreased by 82% because the begin of the CDD program in 1980. “It wouldn’t have occurred with out Barua’s imaginative and prescient that ORS might be used outdoors of hospitals by well being staff with minimal coaching to deal with not solely cholera but in addition childhood diarrhoea,” mentioned Fontaine.
Fontaine recounted how Barua had as soon as met Mom Teresa and upon studying that she was working in Kolkata with the poor and that diarrhoea was a significant downside there, despatched her just a few hundred packets of ORS. “Just a few months later, he obtained a letter from her thanking him for the great remedy he had despatched,” mentioned Fontaine.
Illness and loss of life featured within the earliest childhood recollections of Barua, who hailed from Chittagong — now in Bangladesh however then part of undivided India. In an interview to WHO in 2009, Barua recounted how as an 11-year-old he had seen folks in his village “drop lifeless like flies” resulting from cholera.
“This left an imprint on him,” mentioned Barua’s youthful son Kausik, an funding banker in New York. “It is smart that his life’s work was devoted to creating positive the world would have entry to ORS,” he mentioned.
Barua was instrumental in selling using ORS not simply in Africa, however in Indonesia and Philippines as properly. In keeping with Nathaniel Pierce, emeritus professor of Public Well being, Johns Hopkins College (US), Barua’s commissioning of workshops in growing international locations like Indonesia led to popularisation and adoption of the programme by researchers there.
Barua served within the Military Medical Corps in World Battle II and later as the top of the division of bacteriology on the Calcutta Faculty of Tropical Drugs in 1961, his analysis was centered on the cholera epidemic in 1962.
After retiring from the WHO in 1987, Barua spent most of his time studying on a wide range of topics and meticulously taking notes, mentioned his elder son Basab, a retired physician within the UK. His Melbourne-based niece, Banya, added that schooling was one other concern Barua cared for deeply and donated all through his life to assist underprivileged youngsters full their schooling.

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