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Dr. Dilip Mahalanabis, the pioneer of ORS dies in Kolkata at 87

Dilip Mahalanabis, who was 88, had been admitted to Apollo Gleneagles Hospital at EM Bypass in Kolkata with various health issues, including a problem in his lungs.

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Indian pediatrician Dilip Mahalanabis, a pioneer in the use of oral rehydration theory to treat diarrheal diseases and develop ORS, died on Sunday at a city hospital in Kolkata. He was 87 years old. His family sources said that he was admitted to a private hospital in Kolkata a few weeks ago with several age-related ailments including lung problems. However, all the efforts of the doctors to revive his health condition failed and finally, he passed away on Sunday.

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Rehydration is an alternative in principle for the prevention and treatment of dehydration from diarrhea in an emergency when intravenous therapy is not available. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, the oral rehydration therapy is estimated to have saved over 60 million lives.

He was awarded the Polin Prize in 2002 and the Prince Mahidol Prize in 2006. He was elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1994. However, there is hardly any recognition from the central government for his contribution in a field. The drug that saved millions of lives. Due to his death, there is mourning in the medical world in the state.

Born on November 12 in 1934, Dr Mahalanabis graduated from Calcutta Medical College and Hospital in 1958 and started his practice in paediatrics.

He joined the National Health Service in London two years later and did his MRCP. Dr Mahalanabis later joined Johns Hopkins University, which had an international centre at Beliaghata ID Hospital in Kolkata for cholera treatment.

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Dr Mahalanabis returned to India and started his research on oral rehydration therapy in 1964. ORS is a solution consisting of a mixture of table salt, baking soda and commercial glucose to treat diarrheal diseases.

During the Bangladesh war in 1971, millions of refugees fled from former East Pakistan and took shelter in various camps in West Bengal. An outbreak of Cholera infected many of them, Dr Mahalanabis along with his staff used the ORT which not only reduced the death rate among the refugees but also curbed the spread of the disease.

ORT was later known as ORS globally with the publication of his work in Johns Hopkins Medical Journal and Lancet.

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