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Kolkata : Dilip Mahalanabis was the doctor whose name is synonymous with ORS due to his contribution in development of this life-saving solution and popularising oral rehydration therapy (ORT).
Trained primarily as a paediatrician, Mahalanabis ventured into public health when he started working on ORT in 1966, as a research scholar for the Johns Hopkins University International Centre for Medical Research and Training in Kolkata, along with doctors David RNalin and Richard A Cash.
The team developed ORS, whose efficacy had been tried only under controlled conditions, until the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War broke out. “ORS is a great discovery, and the contribution of Mahalanabis has been immense. ORS gained global acceptance after it worked to reduce mortality during the cholera epidemic during the Bangladesh Liberation War,” Shanta Dutta, director of ICMR-NICED, said.
Due to the war, over 10 million people had crossed over to the border districts of Bengal. Acholera epidemic followed in the refugee camp in Bongaon, where stock of intravenous fluid ran out. This is when Mahalanabis introduced ORS in the camps, even before it was recommended for treatment.
ORT slashed mortality from 30% to about 3% among patients in the refugee camps. Later, ORS was coined the greatest discovery of the 20th century in medicine. Mahalanabis was recognised by the University of Columbia and Cornell in 2002 with the Pollin prize, and with the Prince Mahidol Award in 2006, by the Thai government. He donated his life’s savings of Rs 1 crore to the Institute of Child Health, Kolkata, where he had begun his journey as a paediatrician.