Papaya is Bengaluru's new apple

Papaya is Bengaluru's new apple

The year 2015 dawned with the threat of Dengue fever on Bengaluru. While the disease itself is not new, it has remained in news, and in the minds of people, for most part of the year.

The City has, since January, witnessed over a thousand confirmed dengue cases and several deaths too. Even as the debate rages over the under-reporting of cases and the insufficient infrastructure to treat the affected, Deccan Herald asked a few Bengalureans about their ordeals with the disease.

Sneha Srinivas, 24, a scientific analyst at Molecular Connections came down with dengue in June. “I struggled with fever and fatigue for three weeks and my platelet count had dropped to 1.10 lakh. But doctors only advised me to take rest. It was, however, papaya leaf juice that helped speed up my recovery,” she recalls.

Bhavya S, a homemaker, has a similar tale to share. When her nine-year-old daughter Khushi contracted dengue, their paediatrician did not prescribe any medicine but advised bed rest and a liquid diet.

“However, we were told that papaya leaf extract is effective. So, we gave Khushi two 10 ml dosages of the juice twice a day and kiwi and pomegranate juice too. She was back in school 15 days later.”

Like Sneha and Bhavya, most people seemed to vouch for the benefits of papaya leaves. According to a paper published in the International Letters of Natural Sciences (Vol. 12), “The leaves of papaya have been shown to contain many active components that can increase the total antioxidant power in blood.”

While some have used leaves plucked off their neighbourhood trees, markets have witnessed the sale of dried papaya leaves in packets. Meanwhile, a commercially available drug made of papaya leaf extracts has become the new rage in dengue cure.

Drug effect
Vijay Jetty, 33, a Kannada actor, tried it out to good effect. He says, “I was put on a five-day course of Caripill. My platelet count had dropped dangerously to 20,000. Hence, I also kept up with my papaya juice treatment to boost my resistance.”

However, Dr Jayaprakash H S from Primary Medicare Centre, Malleswaram, does not prefer recommending Caripill. Reason: “It hasn’t been experimented through allopathic channels…” He adds, “Only dengue haemorragic fever is dangerous. If the patient’s NS1 test turns up positive and the platelet is very low (below 15,000), only then do we suggest hospitalisation for better monitoring or for a transfusion.”

Dr Nandini M D, Vijay’s wife, who runs her own private clinic in Kengeri, explains that since there is no vaccine or medicine available for dengue, it is impossible to stop people from trying out other options. “I have seen cases where a doctor herself lost her life to dengue. So it’s highly unpredictable, too,” says the doctor.

But the whole drill of hospitalisation was what put off Apoorva S, 23, associate software engineer at Accenture. “I was asked to get a blood test done when a technician at a diagnostic centre noticed a red rash on my body. I then got NS1, IgM and IgG tests done. The first two came positive and my doctor asked me to get hospitalised. But I decided to try the papaya home remedy on the advise of the technician at the diagnostics,” she recalls.

“The fear that it may or may not work is there for all. But if something works out naturally and is more powerful, where is the need to take medicines?” she asks.
Anirudha Srinivas disagrees.

This senior engineer at Bosch Limited whose platelet count was down to 35-40,000, was hospitalised though he received no transfusion. “I’m not an expert. And the information overload on the Internet has mislead people, too,” he says.

On the other hand, J Sreenivasa Murthy, associate professor of Sanskrit at MES College, who recently lost his elder brother, warns that “while dengue can be easily fought, one needs to be aware of other hospital acquired infections.”

His brother had almost recovered from dengue, when he had a pneumonia attack while still in the hospital. “He had received two blood transfusions and had also tried the papaya leaf cure and Caripill as well, which had helped in recuperation. But his weak resistance left him vulnerable,” says Murthy.

So while the cure for dengue remains elusive, it seems a large percentage of Bengalureans have found a miracle in papaya, temporarily at least.

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