The Union Health Ministry’s ban on the retail sale and private manufacture of oxytocin, expected to kick off on September 1, is an extremely ill-thought-out one. The drug, a synthetic version of a human hormone, is a life-saver for women. Doctors use it to induce labour in pregnant women and to stem postpartum bleeding. So critical is its role in maternal health that the World Health Organization recommends it as the drug of choice in postpartum haemorrhage.
The government’s ban ignores this, and is motivated instead by the misuse of the hormone in the dairy industry. Because oxytocin stimulates lactation in cattle, dairy farmers inject the drug indiscriminately to increase milk production. This has spawned several unlicensed facilities that manufacture the drug for veterinary use. It is a problem that needs solving. But the right approach would have been to strengthen regulation, and crack down on illegal production. Much is unknown about the ill-effects of oxytocin on cattle.
One of the concerns was that oxytocin leads to infertility in dairy animals, and some studies show this to be true. It has also been linked to mastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder. Milk consumers worry about exposure to it through dairy products. The science behind some of these claims is unclear. In a Lok Sabha answer in 2015, the National Dairy Research Institute was quoted as saying there was no evidence that oxytocin led to infertility. A 2014 study by researchers at the National Institute of Nutrition concluded that oxytocin content in buffalo milk did not alter with injections.
However, even if the ill-effects of oxytocin are real, a ban is not the answer. Oxytocin is simply too important to Indian women, 45,000 of whom die due to causes related to childbirth each year. A parallel to the situation lies in the misuse of antibiotics in humans and poultry. So heavily are these drugs used that they are causing deadly bacteria to become resistant to them. Yet, despite calls for a complete ban on over-the-counter sale of antibiotics, India has been reluctant to do so.
In much of rural India, more people still die due to a lack of antibiotics than due to antibiotic-resistance. This has swung the cost-benefit ratio against outright bans. In oxytocin’s case, if only a single public sector unit manufactures the drug, as the government plans, this could lead to drug shortages and price hikes. Karnataka Antibiotics & Pharmaceuticals Limited, the drugmaker tasked with manufacturing oxytocin, has been asked to cap the price at ₹16.56 for 1 ml of a five international unit (IU) solution. However, some private manufacturers were selling it for ₹4 until now. Monopolising production will remove the low-price options from the market. Such a situation may benefit cattle, but will put the lives of many women at risk.
courtesy : thehindu.com
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Berlin: Scientists have identified highly effective antibodies against the novel coronavirus, which they say can lead to the development of a passive vaccination for COVID-19.
Unlike in active vaccination, passive vaccination involves the administration of ready-made antibodies, which are degraded after some time.
However, the effect of a passive vaccination is almost immediate, whereas with an active vaccination it has to build up first, the researchers said.
The research, published in the journal Cell, also shows that some SARS-CoV-2 antibodies bind to tissue samples from various organs, which could potentially trigger undesired side effects.
The scientists at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and Charite - Universitatsmedizin Berlin isolated almost 600 different antibodies from the blood of individuals who had overcome COVID-19, the disease triggered by SARS-CoV-2.
By means of laboratory tests, they were able to narrow this number down to a few antibodies that were particularly effective at binding to the virus.
The researchers then produced these antibodies artificially using cell cultures.
The so-called neutralising antibodies bind to the virus, as crystallographic analysis reveals, and thus prevent the pathogen from entering cells and reproducing, they said.
In addition, virus recognition by antibodies helps immune cells to eliminate the pathogen. Studies in hamsters -- which, like humans, are susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2 -- confirmed the high efficacy of the selected antibodies.
If the antibodies were given after an infection, the hamsters developed mild disease symptoms at most. If the antibodies were applied preventively -- before infection -- the animals did not get sick, said Jakob Kreye, coordinator of the research project.
The researchers noted that treating infectious diseases with antibodies has a long history.
For COVID-19, this approach is also being investigated through the administration of plasma derived from the blood of recovered patients. With the plasma, antibodies of donors are transferred, they said.
"Ideally, the most effective antibody is produced in a controlled manner on an industrial scale and in constant quality. This is the goal we are pursuing," said Momsen Reincke, first author of the research.
Three of our antibodies are particularly promising for clinical development, explained Harald Pruss, a research group leader at the DZNE and also a senior physician at Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin.
"Using these antibodies, we have started to develop a passive vaccination against SARS-CoV-2," Pruss said.
In addition to the treatment of patients, preventive protection of healthy individuals who have had contact with infected persons is also a potential application, the researchers said.
How long the protection lasts will have to be investigated in clinical studies, they said.
This is because, unlike in active vaccination, passive vaccination involves the administration of ready-made antibodies, which are degraded after some time, Pruss said. In general, the protection provided by a passive vaccination is less persistent than that provided by an active vaccination, the researchers said.
However, the effect of a passive vaccination is almost immediate, whereas with an active vaccination it has to build up first, they said.
It would be best if both options were available so that a flexible response could be made depending on the situation, Pruss added.