India’s ICAR-CIFT publication suggesting Seaweed as an effective immunotherapy to fight COVID-19; recognized by WHO

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By Milthon Lujan

by Amod Ashok Salgaonkar

ICAR-CIFT research article published in Current Science entitled ‘Can sulphated polysaccharides from seaweed provide prophylactic and/or therapeutic solution to Covid-19 pandemic?’ (authored by Asish K Jha, Suseela Mathew and Ravishankar C.N.) highlighting the potential of seaweed as an effective immunotherapy against corona virus, has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and placed in their website section of ‘COVID-19 Global Literature on Coronavirus Disease’ for sharing the information and knowledge to help the world in fighting against COVID-19.

The endorsement of the publication by the Geneva based World Health Organisation is an evidence for the scientists working in the field of marine resources and drug discovery for the claims they put forward on some of the naturally available seaweed compounds, which can act as a wonder drug to fight SARS-CoV-2.

The marine environment is a natural habitat for a wide variety of living organisms and contain more than 80 percentage of plant and animal species in the world. Seaweed is considered as one of the easily accessible and most abundant live species present in the marine ecosystem. Derivatives of seaweeds are known to have many nutraceutical properties. Several polysaccharides isolated from red and green seaweeds have been evaluated for its antiviral characteristics and found to have ability to inhibit the initial attachment of virus to the host cells which in turn effectively block the viral entry to human body. Carrageenan, a sulphated polysaccharide from red seaweed has already been tried as a therapeutic agent for respiratory illness like common cold, influenza virus H1N1. In vitro study shows that iota-carrageenan is active against novel pandemic H1N1/2009 influenza. The study also shows that use of sulphated polysaccharide increases the secretions of interferon and interleukins suggesting that it is a strong immune-stimulator. Considering the available scientific knowledge, it is proposed that sulphated polysaccharide from seaweed can be a potent molecule to fight against COVID-19 pandemic, hence a candidate molecule to be studied against SARS-CoV-2.

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Though much of the work throughout the globe is happening to find the solution against COVID-19; it can be noted that the aquatic plants like seaweed posses many of the medicinal components and deep research in such research areas is the need of the hour. Any of the international organizations who may be interested to know more about various research activities of the CIFT can reach to Director of Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (Link: https://cift.res.in/faculty-details/head-quarters/director/262).

Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in India was set up in 1957 and it’s the only national centre in the country where research in all disciplines relating to fishing and fish processing is undertaken. The main vision of institute is to facilitate harvesting and total utilization of fishery resources through innovations in harvest and post-harvest technology.

Such activities are also highlighting that the researches are moving in an appropriate direction in India through different fisheries research institutes under the able leadership of Dr J k Jena (Deputy Director General – Fisheries Science, ICAR) & Dr Trilochan Mohapatra (Director General, ICAR). The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. The ICAR has its headquarters at New Delhi. The Council is the apex body for co-ordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country. With 101 ICAR institutes and 71 agricultural universities spread across the country this is one of the largest national agricultural systems in the world.

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Reference (open access)
Ashish Kumar Jha, Suseela Mathew and C. N. Ravishankar. 2020. Can sulphated polysaccharides from seaweed provide prophylactic and/or therapeutic solution to COVID-19 pandemic? CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 119, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2020. 


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