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Operation Coro-Nation By Samrat Ghosh: A One-Man Army Against COVID-19

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Corona is the buzz word everywhere now, isn’t it? See, it is not any bioweapon, as that theory has been busted by experts now. It’s a new zoonotic virus with origins in Hubei province of China. “Wuhan se yahan, yahan se wahan” has been the case of its spread all over the globe now. Lockdown and social distancing are being practised by us all to flatten the curve and hence reduce the transmission of the virus. Some four existing antiviral drugs have entered clinical trials and their testing has begun in some countries by WHO. The arrival of vaccines may take some 12- 18 months now. If you ask me to recommend one simple yet superb article to understand a lot about this coronavirus, it will be the one by Vandana in The Federal.in.

Our country India has taken timely efficient measures to control the spread of the virus and is now preparing with all the required medical treatment techniques. Many startup teams and government organizations in India are involved in producing indigenous ventilators, masks and so on. Mylab in Pune has come up with a diagnostic kit for COVID-19. The government has launched Arogya Sethu app for tracking the spread of the virus in India. Dr. Samrat Ghosh, a Chemistry Professor, and Innovator from IISER Mohali has also contributed some interesting innovations and ideas for preventing the transmission of the virus. In the following interview I had with Dr. Ghosh, he explained his work concerning the prevention of the virus spread, which will give us some good idea on the various aspects of COVID-19 crisis. Here it goes:

Hello Dr. Ghosh, so how and by when did you get into developing innovations for tackling the COVID-19 crisis?

I consider myself a frontline worker in the fight against COVID-19 because as early as January 2020, sensing that the human Coronavirus 2019-nCoV now officially designated as SARS-CoV-2 could wreck havoc should it enter a densely populated developing country like India, I took the early initiative and launched the ‘Operation Coro-Nation’ with whatever resources at my disposal when only a few were taking this human Coronavirus seriously.

Dr. Ghosh, That one is an interesting term. Tell us about operation coronation. What is it?

The ‘Operation Coro-Nation’ is basically a one-man army effort to develop various frugal grass-root level easy to implement techniques and contrivances to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 illness as much as possible both in India and abroad.

So single-handedly you have been involved in designing some innovations and prototypes that possibly could tackle coronavirus crisis?

Yeah. That is why I say the one-man army. I am a Chemistry faculty and run a small innovation lab wherein I develop these frugal solutions for the problems faced by our society, right now say COVID-19 crisis. Or think about this, today most are overlooking or turning a blind eye to the civic perils posed by our gutter and drains overflowing with human excreta especially in our widespread slum areas in Mumbai and elsewhere due to this prolonged nationwide lock-down. It is well documented that virus shedding from COVID-19 patients in quarantine, hospitals, and residential areas could result in active SARS-CoV-2 virus being present in such accumulated human waste in the gutter and other septic tanks could trigger a secondary COVID-19 outbreak.

That’s, possible and could be a grim scenario. Effective sanitization of such human wastes is a critical step in reducing the spread and transmission of this COVID-19 pandemic then. Have you thought about it, now that you mentioned?

Armed with the knowledge that the SARS-CoV-2 being a virulent albeit labile virus as its genome type is highly vulnerable to certain chemicals, I have developed a simple, quarternary ammonium compound-free, scale-able technique (OSCAR) for spraying (using a Venturi effect imparting nozzle) widely available non-toxic chemicals in tandem from a safe distance which on contact at the designated site releases a chemical which is not flammable unlike alcohol and has the potential to reduce the infectivity of the present novel human Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 both in the aqueous slurry containing human excreta and the contaminated air immediately above it.

That’s so good Dr. Ghosh, but do you have any scientific evidence to back it?

OSCAR which I have developed is based on the chemical experiment I routinely demonstrate to my first-year undergraduate students in their first-semester qualitative chemical analysis laboratory course for the detection of methyl ketones apparently also found in the urine of diabetic people. This is one example of my interdisciplinary ‘Education & Research’ methodology the cornerstone of our IISERs. Incidentally, I also came across a research publication in a well known, highly cited chemical journal from a reputed group claiming that a similar approach deactivated MS2 bacteriophage (a model virus which is enveloped too and consists of single-stranded RNA).

Let’s get back to Operation Coro-Nation, Dr Ghosh. You said it consists of other techniques and contrivances. Can you mention them, please?

Yes, why not. Let me mention the names and if you are more interested, you can know about the science behind and working in detail through my YouTube videos. See the techniques I developed are:

1) Apron sterilization for health service and lab staff.

2) Eye protection for health staff and others.

3)  Novel Disposable Cough & Sneeze KHAAS Bag for SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Prevention.

4) Low-cost masks, which I call swadeshi Naak langot.

5) Instant Handkerchief/Cotton Mask Sanitization.

6)  Long-lasting Reusable Dual Chamber Oxy N95 masks for Medical staff and patients.

7)  Indoor Sanitization of Air-borne Pathogens using ANTI:VIRUS (Affordable Non-hazardous Technique from IISER: Vacuum for Indoor Removal of Unwanted Species)

8)  Copper wire laced contrivance to be used by COVID-19 patients for Inactivation of SARS-CoV-2.

9)  Reuse of disposal hand gloves by Steam treatment.

That’s huge and so nice, Dr. Ghosh. So counting OSCAR along, these ten techniques form part of the Operation Coro-Nation as you call it, right?

Yes, you are correct. I am satisfied I could develop these in the limited time we had till the lockdown. This is a small contribution to my big country. As COVID-19 positive cases surge, communicating these developments, I think I will be able to sensitize and get feedback from experts which can enable me to carry out further improvisation.

So Operation Coro-Nation is about preventing the spread and transmission of COVID-19 illness.

Exactly, that’s my work and idea now.

Dr. Ghosh, Have you communicated this to authorities? Has it been covered before?

I have mailed and tweeted my work through our lab twitter handle to authorities. Also, I have registered one of these ideas at mygov.in innovate forum. As far as coverage is concerned yes some local print and visual media have covered my work to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.

I hope you are following recent drug developments, Dr. Ghosh. The very recent one, i.e. Ivermectin from Australian researchers. What’s your take on these Dr. Ghosh as a chemist?

Okay. The reports from Australian researches are encouraging in the light of an important article published by the Japanese researchers several years ago, claiming it to be a wonder drug alongside penicillin and aspirin.

Okay, that sounds like some good news. I hope the authorities take note of your contributions and utilize whichever way possible in this fight against COVID-19. Thank you, Dr Samrat Ghosh for this interview.

I wish you, your colleagues and family, good health, happiness and immunity from COVID-19.

You must be to comment.

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