SCIENCE TRIBUNE Thursday, April 26, 2001, Chandigarh, India

Tackling foot-and-mouth disease
Pravin Kumar
OOT-AND-MOUTH (FMD) disease, which is ravaging cattle herds in Britain and other countries in Europe, is beginning to cast to cast its shadow over India. After the reported outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Rajasthan and Haryana, Jordan has joined hands with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to ban Indian meat imports. Egypt, which imports 14,000 tonnes, veterinarians is going to Egypt to persuade the Egyptian government to lift the ban.

Aid for disabled drivers
CIENTIFIC applications are making life simple for the disabled. The latest aid for car drivers confined to a wheelchair enables them to stow their chair on the roof of their vehicle and to recover it for use simply and without help.

  • Better transport system
  • Why Egyptians venerated sun
  • Why Egyptians venerated sun

J. P. Garg tests your IQ 



Tackling foot-and-mouth disease
Pravin Kumar

FOOT-AND-MOUTH (FMD) disease, which is ravaging cattle herds in Britain and other countries in Europe, is beginning to cast to cast its shadow over India. After the reported outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Rajasthan and Haryana, Jordan has joined hands with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to ban Indian meat imports. Egypt, which imports 14,000 tonnes, veterinarians is going to Egypt to persuade the Egyptian government to lift the ban.

In Britain, the worst affected country, 682 cases had occurred up to March 27. The chief preventative measure to check the spread of the disease is to slaughter cattle. Up to 1 million animals could be killed under a mass slaughter campaign to prevent further spread; during the outbreaks in the UK in 1967 and 1968, more than 430,00 animals were slaughtered. In the present outbreak, more than 270,000 animals had been slaughtered up to March 21. The cost of vaccinating all susceptible animals would be prohibitive — at about per sheep. Moreover, the vaccine would not eradicate the disease; it could also delay a return to disease-free status for the export market. Hence, slaughter of all exposed animals is considered the only effective counter-measure. In two of the worst — affected areas, south-west Scotland and Cumbria, all sheep and pigs on farms within two miles of known outbreaks would be slaughtered as a precaution. A government campaign to limit the damage done to rural industry and to tourism by FMD has begun. Ads in newspapers and special telephone hotlines will advise people about which parts of the countryside they can visit safely. The Guardian newspaper on March 28 reported that the mountaining FMD crisis has even shifted the general elections from May to June.

The disease could peak in May and continue till August, according to Prof Anderson, an epidemiologist of the UK Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAFF). FMD was also reported from France on March 13, in the Mayenne region, close to a farm which had imported sheep from the UK in February. On March 21, several cases were reported from the Netherlands.

India, with its varied agro-climatic and socio-economic conditions and mixed farming with various species of livestock, has always been an ideal habitat for the spread of the disease. With a livestock population of 500 million, there are about 1000 outbreaks of “India has learnt to live with FMD”, says Dr M.P. Yadav, director of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izzatnagar. Native Indian breeds are more or less resistant to FMD. The disease affects productivity and is not generally fatal. However, the FMD virus lowers and animal’s immunity to haemorrhagic septicaemia, with fatal results. According to experts of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, the cattle deaths in Haryana, Punjab and Jammu over the last two months are due to haemorrhagic septicaemia, not FMD. Nonetheless, foot-and-mouth remains a menace to livestock raisers and to the meat-packing, dairy, leather and wool industries. Exports of meat and milk products to western countries require a certificate having been produced in FMD free farms. With the ban by the Arab countries, India’s meat exports have fallen from 30,000 tonnes in February 2001 to 15,000 tonnes.

FMD is a disease caused by a virus belonging to the genus Apthov irus of the family Picornaviradae. In India, the virus is endemic, with four basic types and numerous variants. Due to various reasons, a slaughtering policy cannot be adopted in India, and the disease has to be controlled by regular vaccination, supported by early diagnosis, proper disposal of infected animals and restricting animal movement. The disease (also called hoof-and-mouth disease) affects cloven-hoofed animals, i.e., cattle and pigs — rarely humans. It manifests itself as a sudden rise in temperature, followed by an eruption of blisters in the mouth, on areas of tender skin, such as the udder in females, and on the feet; blisters may also appear in the nostrils. There may also be salivation and frequent smacking of the lips. Eating becomes painful. Because soft tissues under the hoof become inflamed, the animal becomes lame and may eventually shed its hooves. Livestock raised for meat may lose weight, and dairy cattle and goats give less milk. Often, the disease kills young animals and causes pregnant females to abort.

Stopping FMD

FMD is a highly infectious disease that can be spread by infected cattle feed or direct or indirect contact with infected animals. Most commonly, the disease is spread from one animal to another when they are close together. The sheer size of modern flocks makes detection hard. FMD may be transitory in sheep; since lameness is a common problem in sheep, lameness may not be noticed. The present outbreak in Britain has been traced to waste from a Chinese restaurant which was being used in pigswill at a farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland. Pigswill is kitchen waste collected from restaurants, schools and canteens and boiled to produces a thick liquid. Pigs eat it because their robust digestive systems can take meats and all kinds of plants. Farmers like it because it is cheap. The spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or ‘mad cow disease’) advisory committee had warned that material should not be recycled within a species because (for example) contaminated pork could thus pass to pigs. However, owing to the tough laws imposed on the use of pigswill since 1980, pigswill is now used only on a small proportion of the 3,000 — odd pig farms, concentrated mainly in East Anglia and East and North Yorkshire.

Critics say that pigswill is only a side-issue. The infection could have come through exotic meats bush rats, monkey meat, cow’s nostrils and caterpilars, which are smuggled in for specially ethnic market like Chinese, Indian and other Asian restaurants. Nick Brown, UK’s Agriculture Minister, said in Parliament on March 27 that the illegal meat was the probable cause of the FMD outbreak.

Half of the cases in the present outbreak could be traced back to the market at Longton in Cumbria and Welshpool in Wales. Before movement restrictions were introduced, many animals were going from one market to another on their way to the abattoir, being sold on and sent further afield to wherever they would fetch a better price. The British government has now announced restrictions on the movement of animals — mainly sheep; in future, sheep will have to stay on one farm for 20 days to prevent the rapid spread of the disease. According to Jim Scudamore, the MAFF’s chief veterinary officer, another way the virus is likely to have spread between flocks before the movements were halted is the “bed-and-breakfast sheep”. To enable farmers to claim subsidy payments they’re not entitled to, a farmer who has sold some sheep in his flock rings up a dealer and asks him to lend him some animals to claim his full entitlement. “When you’re satisfied MAFF your flock is up to strength, you can send the sheep back, with whatever they may have picked up on the way.”

Some British farmers say that they will not allow the slaughter teams on to their farms; others hint that they may drive their animals to safety in national parks. There is talk of a legal challenge to the slaughter. Prof Julian Winpenny of the Cardiff School of Biosciences described the strategy of killing and burning thousands of healthy animals as “simply barbarous in this day and age”.

Vaccination: The UK, together with other European countries, holds some 30 million doses of vaccines of all the main types of virus. In an emergency, the strategy is either to mass vaccinate or to “ring-fence” outbreaks, i.e., to vaccinate all animals in the area surrounding an outbreak. At present, the strategy is “ring-fencing” by slaughtering, with all the logestic problems of disposing of the carcasses. One argument against vaccination, according of Prof Joe Brownlie of the Royal Veterinary College is that vaccinated animals that have contacts with the live virus are just as likely to become carriers as animals that have recovered from the clinical disease. It is difficult to distinguish antibodies from infected animals from those that are vaccinated. (Antibodies are proteins produced in a host animal). It is reported from Saudi Arabia, which has the most rigorous vaccination in the world, that there have been two outbreaks in three years.

Vaccination confers immunity for short periods. Periodic outbreak and variations among the circulating viruses necessitate rapid and sensitive diagnostic tests. Collecting samples for diagnosis involves physical handling of the animal, which means increasing the risk of spreading the virus. To get over this difficulty, a simple method has been developed by Dr V.V.S. Suryanaryana and his colleagues at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Hebbel, Bangalore. The test uses samples of the air collected from the vicinity of animals kept in sheds. Claimed to be the first of its kind, the test may be employed to test for the presence of the virus in the contaminated area.



Aid for disabled drivers

SCIENTIFIC applications are making life simple for the disabled. The latest aid for car drivers confined to a wheelchair enables them to stow their chair on the roof of their vehicle and to recover it for use simply and without help.

Chair-up is a hoist and storage system that is roof-mounted. The unit sits on top of the car very comfortably and is controlled from a dashboard-mounted master switch. Once switched on, the driver simply presses a button and the chair moves out and down from the roof, slowly descending from its cover to the pavement within easy reach of the car door. Having removed the chair from its cover it moves back to the roof of the vehicle.

To replace the chair after use, the driver repeats the operation to lower the cover, locks the chair in position, presses the button and the chair rises up to the roof where it is securely locked. Should the locking unit become disengaged, a warning light will show and a buzzer will sound on the master switch.

Suitable for all makes and sizes of wheelchair, the equipment requires very little effort to operate. It offers a wide range of width and height adjustment and requires no drilling or other alternations to be made to the car’s body.

Better transport system

Scientists in Germany have developed an open software system which helps in better transport coordination by automating and managing information and document exchange along the entire cargo route.

Organising the transport of goods is a time consuming process: routes and timetables must be laid down, sufficient load capacities booked, waybills filled out, insurance provided for and customs regulations observed. And the more switches between modes of transportation, the greater the organisation and coordination effort required.

The new Transport Chain Management System keeps track of all data about suppliers, customers and shipment inventories, as well as haulage companies agents and their specific transport services, timetables and delivery schedules, according to Ulrich Bugle of the Fraunhofer Institute for Information and Data processing (IITB) which has developed the system.

For example, if a Swedish paper manufacturer has to deliver 50 tons of paper to a large printing company in Athens within eight weeks, TCMS researches which shipping companies have a cargo run planned from Goteborg to Piraus, whether the ships would reach Athens in time, and whether they still have the required capacity available. PTI

Why Egyptians venerated sun

A tomb dating back to the mid-14th century BC could shed light on the early years of ancient Egyptians’ veneration of the sun god Aten, Dutch archaeologists have said in describing their discovery of a priest’s burial site.

Inscriptions on a column found at the 20-metre (66-foot) by 10-metre (33-foot) tomb unearthed at Sakkara, 25 kilometres south of Cairo, belong to the priest Meryneith in the time of king Akhenaten’s rule (1379-62 B.C.), AP reports.

Rene van Walsem, an Egyptologist with Leiden University in the Netherlands, said the tomb dates 20 years earlier than previous New Kingdom tombs found in the area and expands knowledge of the early Akhenaten years. The pharaoh was believed to have feuded with the priesthood of Amu, the mai god of Thebes, then devoted himself to worshipping Aten, a sun god.

“It was very important for us to know the transition from polytheistic religion to a more or less montheistic Aten,” Van Walsem said.

His colleague, Egyptologist Maarten Raven of the National Museum of Antiquities in Keiden, said the team learned that the priest changed his name from Meryneith to Meryrei, an indication that adoration of the traditional gods was forbidden part way through his career. Meryneith means “Beloved of the Goddess Neith,” the traditional goddess of war.

Sakkara, a sprawling necropolis for the ancient city of Memphis, is best known for the six-step pyramid of Pharaoh Zozer built around 2620 B.C.

Vacuum-assisted rust protection

Researchers have developed a new ‘in-line coating system’ with wide applications ranging from coating cola cans from inside to coating car body components.

The coating system improves the adhesion properties and smoothness of protective and functional films applied to metal strips and sheets.

At the core of the new MAXI in-line coating system developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP in Dresden are four sequential vacuum-decoupled chambers. The first station provides one of various pre-treatment processes, from simple heating to ion etching or the application of a thin adhesion layer using magnetron sputtering. In the next tow chambers the actual coating is applied. Researchers use conventional procedures to some extent during this process, but the focus is primarily on plasma-assisted electron-beam vaporization procedures. PTI


J. P. Garg Tests your IQ 

1. When this medical scientist’s book “On the Motion of the Blood” was published in 1628, it created a sensation in medical circles. Like many other discoverers, he was also rebuked and accused of being crank-minded. But when after a few years his theory was proved to be true, it shattered all earlier medical beliefs in the field. Who was this British physician? What was his main discovery?

2. According to new researches, cells called HPSCs can form new type of cells called EBDCs which can further develop into all the basic types of tissues that make up human body. Besides other applications, this finding may help cure some deadly diseases. What are the full names of HPSCs and EBDCs?

3. HAM radio, a two-way communication system, has a wealth of information combining computers, satellites, broadcasting radio, information sciences, etc. Through operators working at different locations, it can be of great help in situations like disasters. HAM is an acronym combining the first letters of the names of three great radio scientists. Can you tell these names?

4. This “metal” is an alloy of bismuth, lead, tin and cadmium and has a very low melting point (17 degree Celsius). What is this “metal” called which is used in safety instruments like the one that automatically turns on water when a building catches fire?

5. What is a device called in which the energy of fast flowing air is used to produce electricity? What is a place called where a large number of such devices are installed?

6. What is a drug called that prevents or relieves pain by action on the nervous system without causing loss of consciousness?

7. This rare, invaluable and world’s largest fish is hooked and dragged back to the shore by the fishermen at the Gujarat coast. Then it is slaughtered for its meat, fins, liver, cartilage and even skin for export. Can you name this fish which faces a serious threat to its population and is popularly known as “gentle giant of the sea”?

8. Ascorbic acid is found in many fruits and vegetables. It is essential for normal body metabolism and helps resist infection and stress. What is the popular name of this acid the deficiency of which causes sore gums and scurvy?

9. Twinkling of stars is a wonderful phenomenon. Which optical characteristic of earth’s atmosphere changes slightly that causes twinkling of stars?

10. On April 12, Russia celebrated the 40th anniversary of a historic space feat. What was this feat?



1. William Harvey; circulation of blood 2. Human pluripotent stem cells and embryoid body derived cells 3. Hearst, Armstrong and Marconi 4. Wood’s metal 5. Wind turbine or windmill; wind farm 6. Analgesic 7. Whale shark 8. Vitamin C 9. Refractive index 10. On April 12, 1961, Major Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space to circle around the globe for 108 minutes.