KARACHI: The growing number of hepatitis cases in Pakistan, chronic pain and depression and health benefits of ginger were among the many topics discussed during the second day of the 7th international symposium-cum-training course on molecular medicine and drug research currently in progress at Karachi University (KU).

The four-day symposium has been organised at KU’s Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research.

German scientist Prof Bertram Flehmig in his lecture on hepatitis said jaundice was an old and one of the widely spread diseases in the world.

The hepatitis B virus surface antigen was identified in 1963 by Dr Baruch Samuel Blumberg, American physician, geneticist and co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine, he said. The hepatitis D virus was identified in 1977.

“Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It can damage and destroy liver cells. The most common skin manifestation associated with hepatitis is the yellowing of the skin (jaundice), whites of the eyes and dark urine,” he said.

Sharing some data on the disease, he said as many as 1.4 million people were affected by hepatitis A virus worldwide and it caused around 10,000 to 30,000 deaths each year while hepatitis B and C viruses caused 600,000 deaths and 350,000 deaths annually.

“Pakistan has the second largest burden of hepatitis C virus in the world with an estimated number of eight to 10 million cases of chronically infected persons with the infection,” he said, regretting that mortalities by the infection were not properly recorded in the country despite having a high prevalence of the disease.

Delivering a presentation on health benefits of ginger, Prof Rafat A. Siddiqui from the US said it’s one of the most widely used medicinal plants in the world and had been traditionally used for a number of ailments including vomiting, indigestion, muscular and joint pain and symptoms of cold.

The ginger root also posse­ssed lipid and glucose-lowering activities.

“Scientific studies show that ginger is one of the healthiest spices on the planet as it has powerful medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidation and anti-cancer activities,” said Prof Siddiqui, adding that the plant also had strong antiviral activity and reduced symptoms of nausea and travel sickness.

The Netherlands, he pointed out, was the top ginger exporter in the world whereas Pakistan was the top importer of the plant, though it’s an agricultural country.

Prof Darakhshan Jabeen Haleem of Dr Panjwani Centre in her lecture talked about chronic pain and depression and said the association between chronic pain and depression was becoming increasingly recognised.

“Treating both conditions together is essential for an effective treatment outcome. It is important to identify a shared mechanism involved in the association of chronic pain with depression.”

A large number of scientists, including those from Turkey, Greece, the US, the UK, Germany, France, Australia and Canada are attending the event.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2019

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