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Polluted Ganga still has medicinal qualities

Last updated: 10 September, 2009
Sanjay Pandey, Lucknow, DH News Service:

River water could be used to develop new antibiotic

Despite being polluted, the waters of the Ganges still possess ‘medicinal qualities’ and could pave the way for developing new ‘anti-microbial compounds’.


According to a research conducted by a senior scientist of Lucknow-based National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), a prestigious CSIR laboratory, Dr Chandrashekhar Nautiyal, the Ganga waters have ‘anti-bacterial qualities’.

Dr Nautiyal’s research paper has been published in the International Journal ‘Current Microbiology’.

“The study was conducted to validate the ancient knowledge about the antimicrobial effect of Ganga water and to evaluate the potential of Ganga water to explore the possibility of using it as a source of antimicrobial compounds”, Dr Nautiyal told Deccan Herald here. “The objective of this study was to evaluate the incorruptible self-purificatory characteristic and microbial community structure of Ganga water, when spiked with E.coli O157:H7”, he said.


E.coli is a worldwide cause of infection in humans and animals. E.coli O157:H7 is responsible for causing diarrhoea and urinary tract infection, he added. It is common knowledge that Ganga water does not putrefy, even after long periods of storage. Water has been used from time immemorial for remedial purposes. Most religious beliefs involve some ceremonial use of ‘holy’ water.

Ernest Hankin, a British bacteriologist, reported in 1896 on the presence of marked antibacterial activity against Vibrio cholerae, which he observed in the water of the Ganga and suggested that it might help to decrease the incidence of cholera in people using water from the Ganges.

Though invisible, it was possible to show that this principle was particulate and it was called ‘bacteriophage’.

“Thus in a way the world owes the discovery of bacteriophages to the Ganges water”, Dr Nautiyal said.

Matter of survival

He said during the research it was found that E.coli could survivie for only three days in a three-day old sample of Ganga water. The bacteria survivied for seven days in the Ganga water sample collected eight years back while it lasted for 15 days in a 16-year old sample of the Ganga water.

The E.coli however survived for longer time in boiled water, he said. A study of factors affecting the survival of E. coli in Ganga water is of great interest due to its importance as an indicator of fecal pollution in natural waters. It is ancient knowledge that Ganges water does not putrefy, even after long periods of storage, thus water from the Ganges has for millennia been regarded as incorruptible, Dr Nautiyal said.

Dr Nautiyal says this quality of the Ganga water could be used to develop a new anti-biotic which could be more useful in fighting bacterial infections. “There is however need for more research in this regard”, he said.

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