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Dilip Mahalanabis Demise: The Man Who Came Up with ORS

Oct 24, 2022


In today's edition of our Current Affairs, we will talk about Dr Dilip Mahalanabis Demise. He was the man who came up with ORS. The topic's relevance to the UPSC CSE is mentioned below:

For Prelims: Dr Dilip Mahalanabis, discovery of ORS, 1971 war, ORS Day, World Health Organisation (WHO), National Health Portal.

For Mains: Discovery of ORS, India Government Guidelines for the usage of ORS, Usage of ORS.


Recently the physician Dr Dilip Mahalanabis passed away, the one who pioneered the treatment for dehydration through Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS)

Probable Question

Recently Dr Dilip Mahalanabis passed away, who develop with Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), explain his contribution and how effective is the solution.

About Dr Dilip Mahalanabis

  • Birth: He was born on November 12, 1934 in West Bengal.
  • Education: 
    • Dr Mahalanabis studied in Kolkata and London.
    • He joined the Johns Hopkins University International Centre for Medical Research and Training in Kolkata in the 1960s.
    • He carried out research in oral rehydration therapy.
  • Discovery of ORS:
    • The discovery of ORS by DR Mahalanabis is due to the 1971 war that broke out, and caused millions of people from then East Pakistan took refuge in India. 
    • Clean drinking water and sanitation were problems at these refugee camps, and cholera and diarrhoea broke out among people anyway exhausted and dehydrated.
    • Dr Mahalanabis were working in one such camp at Bongaon. 
    • Stocks of intravenous fluids were running out and there weren’t enough trained personnel to administer the IV treatment.
    • Dr Mahalanabis knew that a solution of sugar and salt would increase water absorption by the body, could save lives. 
    • He and his team prepared solutions of salt and glucose in water and began storing them in large drums.
    • Dr Mahalanabis later wrote in WHO about this, suggesting the use of oral fluids as the only recourse in this situation.
    • Head of the Bacterial Diseases Unit of WHO, visited the camp managed by Dr Mahalanabis, and started popularising the ORS method of treatment.
    • Today, the WHO recommends a combination of sodium chloride, anhydrous glucose, potassium chloride and Trisodium citrate dihydrate as the ORS formula.
  • Contribution:
    • He came up with ORS which The Lancet called “the most important medical discovery of the 20th century” while he was working in overflowing refugee camps during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation war.
    • From 1975 to 1979, Dr Mahalanabis worked in cholera control for WHO in Afghanistan, Egypt and Yemen. 
    • During the 1980s, he worked as a WHO consultant on research on the management of bacterial diseases.
  • Death Dr Dilip Mahalanabis, passed away at the age of 87, as he was suffering from lung infection and other age-related ailments.

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About Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS)

  • Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) is a simple, effective remedy for dehydration or diarrhoel diseases.
  • It was an oral form of saline.
  •  In India, July 29 is observed as ORS Day.
  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), diarrhoeal diseases, such as cholera, are among the leading causes of mortality in infants and young children in many developing countries, where the patient dies of dehydration. 
  • ORS, a combination of water, glucose and salts, is a simple and cost-effective method of preventing diarrhoeal diseases.
  • The oral solution consisted of: 
    • 22 gm glucose (as commercial monohydrate), 
    • 3.5 gm sodium chloride (as table salt),
    • 2.5 gm sodium bicarbonate (as baking soda) per liter of water. 
  • Significance: 
    • Oral rehydration is the mainstay of treatment for diarrhoeal diseases in children. 
    • Before the use of ORT, the only treatment was intravenous fluid infusion, which was neither cost-effective nor easy. 
    • Due to Dr Mahalanabis’s persistent efforts, ORT was made a household name.
    • Even untrained people can administer ORS and keep the crisis in check till the patient is admitted to the hospital. 
  • Usage: It contains electrolytes in right proportions and is given to babies and adults suffering from diarrhoea. 

India Government Guidelines for the usage of ORS

  • The Union Health Ministry has popularised guidelines on preparing and using ORS available in powder form at health centres and chemists. 
  • The guidelines, available at the India Health Portal site, advise that contents of the ORS packet should be mixed with the correct amount of water in a clean container. 
  • The National Health Portal gives a step-by-step guide to preparing formulation at home as well. 
  • “The home-made solution is adequate in most cases and is very effective for rehydration,” the National Health Portal says.
  • The ORS solution should be covered and not kept for more than 24 hours, due to the risk of bacterial contamination, the portal says.

News Source: The Indian Express

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