Asian Heart founder writes to ICMR on two possible steps for Covid containment

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on April 06, 2020

Can steam inhalation and a betadine gargle help reduce the viral load in the throat and act as a preventive measure? Asian Heart Institute founder Ramakanta Panda says it was worth exploring the effectiveness of such preventive measures through small randomised clinical trials.

Against a steadily rising graph of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) affected people in the country, Panda has written to the Indian Council of Medical Research chief Balram Bhargava to explore if such measures could help reduce the severity of Covid symptoms in high-risk populations such as the elderly and healthcare workers. In desperate times, there is no harm in looking at “quasi scientific adjunct treatment seriously,” he said.

Global trials

“I am quoting findings of two interesting articles in NEJM (The New England Journal of Medicine) to suggest trying out two supporting treatments to reduce the severity of and possibly prevent Covid-19 infection in high-risk population,” the letter said. The authors postulated that the high transmission of SARS-CoV-2 probably came from other factors, “including high viral loads in (the) upper respiratory tract and the potential for the infected person to shed and transmit virus while asymptomatic,” he said.

“There are many reports of loss of infectivity of other corona viruses at higher temperature ( > 55-60 degrees centigrade) and higher relative humidity. Since there is high concentration of virus in oropharynx in asymptomatic early stage, use of steam inhalation and warm betadine/chlorhexidine gargle may reduce viral load and consequently severity of infection in high risk population including hospital workers,” the letter said.

“Betadine is a commonly used antiseptic against bacteria in hospitals around the world. Before we operate, we wash our hands with betadine and scrub the patient with betadine,” the reputed heart surgeon told BusinessLine.

Limited benefits

The measures may not have an effect on patients severely ill or with full-blown symptoms. But Panda said, “Even if it is not effective in preventing, if it reduces severity of the symptoms, it will reduce the burden on healthcare system.”

“In my clinical practice, I have seen enough anecdotal (may not be strictly scientific) benefit of twice daily steam inhalation in preventing regular flu. Based on above information (NEJM) … We have started twice a day steam inhalation for all our staff at the beginning and end of each shift,” he said.

Published on April 06, 2020

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