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Need more data, says ICMR on proposals to undertake study of Ganga water for treating COVID-19

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New Delhi:  The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has decided not to go ahead with the proposals forwarded by the Jal Shakti Ministry to undertake clinical studies for treatment of COVID-19 patients with Ganga water, saying it needs more scientific data.

Dr Y K Gupta, who is chairing the committee for Evaluation of Research Proposals at ICMR, said the evidence and data available at the moment is not strong enough to start the clinical studies by different routes/forms of Ganga water for treatment of coronavirus.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), an arm of the Jal Shakti Ministry that deals with the rejuvenation programme for the river, had received a number of proposals, including from people and NGOs working on Ganga, to undertake clinical studies for treatment of coronavirus patients with the river water, officials said.

The proposals were accordingly sent to the ICMR on April 28.

Gupta, who is also a former dean of the AIIMS, said, “At present the proposals need much scientific data, proof of concept and a strong background hypothesis. This has been conveyed to them (NMCG).”

NMCG officials said the proposals were discussed with the scientists of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), which had earlier conducted a study ‘Assessment of Water Quality and Sediment to understand the special properties of River Ganga’.

According to the NEERI study, Ganga water has a higher number of bacteriophages as against pathogenic bacteria. During consultations that were held between the NMCG and NEERI, the scientists also said there is still no proof that Ganga water or sediment has anti-viral properties.

“We forwarded the proposals to the ICMR as received,” said a senior official of the NMCG.

One of the proposals received by NMCG claimed that the waters of Ganga have “ninja virus” which scientists call bacteriophages.

Another proposal claimed that pure Ganga water boosts immunity which helps fight the virus.

The third proposal, a detailed one, sought more research on Ganga water’s anti-viral properties and its ability to boost immunity in fighting diseases. It also suggested this study can be conducted upstream of Tehri on the Bhagirathi river and upstream of Srinagar on the Alaknanda river.

NMCG officials said they have not received any official communication on the status of their proposals from the ICMR.

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