International Symposium: Speakers enlighten viewers, suggest ways to combat Covid 19

The three-day International Symposium on ‘Understanding the Corona Pandemic and Its Implications’ continued with expert panelists from India and abroad demystifying the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and ways and means to combat it. The symposium is being organised by the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Biotechnology, Shoolini University. 

The speakers for the day were Dr Yogesh Shukla, Director Healthcare, mHospitals, Sweden, Dr Parmjit S Panesar, Professor & Dean (Research & Consultancy), SLIET, Longowal and Dr Suman Preet Singh Khanuja, former Director, CSIR-CIMAP, Lucknow, and distinguished Professors from Shoolini University, Solan. 

Dr Shukla started with a brief introduction about the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Talking about the two patients of Covid-19 from Mumbai, who had succumbed to death due to lack of proper hospital infrastructure, he emphasised the role of technology in the field of Medicine. Dr Shukla shared that mHospitals in Sweden (his current workplace) was focused on utilising Artificial Intelligence (AI) to develop an app that could be used by patients for primary consultations with physicians in developing countries like India. A complete database of hospital infrastructure in a particular geographical area will also be made available. Through live consultations, he shared, patients would be guided to the best available medical resources in their geographical area. 

Dr Parmjit S Panesar enlightened the audience about the immunity booster foods, which were the need of the hour to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. He explained the different ways to improve immunity, which included a balanced diet, exposure to sun, good sleep, limited sugar intake, avoiding alcohol and acidic foods, staying hydrated and exercising. He talked about the role of gastrointestinal tract (GI) in host defense and emphasised on maintaining a healthy GI tract by consuming a nutrient-rich diet. A healthy diet supported the functions of immune cells and nutrients had a specific role in the development and maintenance of an effective immune system. He further explained the role of proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, dietary fibres and Omega-3 fatty acids to improve immunity. Various food groups have immune boosting properties. Citrus fruits such as orange, lime, grapes, lemon, mosambi and mandarin increase the production of white blood cells in the body. Fruits, including kiwi, apple, papaya, pomegranate, berries have ascorbic acid and polyphenols that boost immunity. Vegetables, including tomato, garlic, broccoli, bell peppers, gingers, spinach, and carrot contain various polyphenols that impart the property of immune enhancement. Wholegrains such as oats, barley, millets, rye, and corn are a rich source of dietary fibres, iron, magnesium and polyphenols that can boost our immune system. There are pseudo cereals like buckwheat, quinoa and wheatgrass that are also rich in antioxidants and boost our immune system. Fermented products such as cheese, yogurt contains beneficial micro-organisms like Lactobacillus lactis, etc. Probiotics are living micro-organisms, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which exert health benefits like elimination of lactose intolerance and immunomodulation. Herbs and spices including amla, tulsi, blackpepper, flaxseeds, chia seeds also boost immunity. Beverages such as green tea, kombucha and ginseng tea are rich in antioxidants. He emphasised that vegetables, fruits, protein and wholegrains should be included in meals.  

The viewers were mesmerised as Dr SPS Khanuja shared his profound knowledge and expertise about plants that were the reservoir of metabolites, phytoceuticals useful in preventive health care. He recalled the words of Normon E Borlaug, “Plants do not speak, they just whisper! Therefore, you have to be real close to them to understand them”. He highlighted the importance of pharmaphytoceuticals, also called secondary metabolites such as alkaloids, terpenoids, flavonoids, glycosides, saponins, etc., that can be used for the treatment of various diseases. Among all categories of phytocompounds, terpenoids contributed the most in manufacturing plant-derived drugs, followed by glycosides and alkaloids. 

Dr Khanuja emphasised the importance of preventive healthcare as a viable and long-term strategy to fight against Covid-19 and prevent any future pandemics. Natural products (flora and fauna) should address the issue of immune enhancement, co-morbidity, stresses, metabolic status, age related factors and other undefined factors. He explained about plant resources to take up the medical challenges in the form of curative as well as preventive healthcare. 

Dr Khanuja emphasised on amalgamation of green, white, and red shades in our food, explaining it with the example of a Mediterranean diet, which helps to control cholesterol levels. Functional foods have become an important part of the meal with health benefits and better delivery. He explained the formation of various functional foods and R&D scope/challenges associated with their formation. Millets revival could help in solving the problem of malnutrition in India. He also shared information about industries like Nutri-helix, and Nutri Planet Foods producing functional foods in pasta, cookies, and bars. 

Dr Khanuja has created a FloraFauna Science foundation, working to enable entrepreneurship in villagers through science. He concluded his talk by acknowledging the efforts of all his team members for their support and invited all students, research scholars, and general people to join their hands and minds to become good researchers, good technologists and good entrepreneurs.

The talk was followed by a panel discussion on the role of food as immunity boosters. The main highlights of the discussion were role of eating healthy food, exercise, and healthy lifestyle in preventing diseases by boosting our immune system. Dr Panesar stressed on eating foods rich in antioxidants. Dr Khanuja talked about Tinospora cordifolia (giloy) containing effective antiviral metabolites.

Prof PK Khosla appreciated the efforts of Dr Khanuja in encouraging students to take up entrepreneurship in the current scenario. He underlined the importance of peace and happiness in boosting immunity that can be an outcome of Meditation and Pranayama Yoga. He said high value cash crops should be grown in the Himalayas. 

Dr Khanuja said that farmers should “earn life” and not just “livelihood”. He emphasised on shifting to growing neutraceutical plants. Dr Yogesh Shukla said neutraceuticals did not have a role in acute illness. He said that in general, smokers were more prone to any type of infection, as compared to non-smokers. He again talked about the importance of AI in Medicine in a country like India.

Prof Anuradha Sourirajan mentioned the launch of mHospitals in rural areas and villages of India for better healthcare facilities. Dr Shukla said mHospitals was planning to collaborate with district and regional hospitals in India to extend medical services through AI. Prof Saurabh Kulshrestha talked about convincing people about the utilisation of Moringa Olifera as a rich source of all essential nutrients in their diet.  

Dr Khanuja added that industries should be identified to buy the raw materials and gave example of Biovillages. Dr Suman Khanuja and Prof PK Khosla highlighted the importance of growing neutraceuticals crops in the Himalayan region in order to improve the economy. 

Prof Khosla concluded the webinar by stating that cultivation and processing should go hand in hand in order to increase the economy of farmers. Prof Dinesh Chatanta thanked Vice Chancellor Prof PK Khosla, Pro-VC Prof Atul Khosla, Prof Saurabh Kulshrestha, all speakers, faculties, reporters, and participants for their valuable contribution in making the symposium a great success.