Infectious disease burden on India: Guest Blogger Dr. Raghavendra D. Kulkarni

I attended the 37th National Conference of the Indian Association of Medical Microbiologists held at Hyderabad between November 21st-24th and returned to Dharwad on the morning of the 25th. A lot of deliberations and discussions took place over the course of those four days.

Most of the conferences in India are “gala” events. People come together to meet each other and have fun, rather than for academic exchange. Let me be clear. This is not my statement. This is the criticism inflicted by the people who do not attend the conferences, upon the ones who attend them. This, however, is not the truth. People do indeed come together, make merry, chit chat, and enjoy. However, the academic exchanges that occur in a subtle or informal way are, in reality, packed with new ideas and innovations. This exchange is a treat to those who can understand the gist and have an uncanny ability to read between the lines. People take instant clues, polish their ideas, and articulate the new concepts with their existing perspectives on the subject. All this helps them to transform the experience into some excellent research ideas. I have seen time and again that some innovative and meaningful research projects had their genesis in such gatherings.

On the final day of the conference, Dr. Lalit Dandona, a Distinguished Research Professor and Director, Wellcome Trust Capacity Building Programme, PHFI, New Delhi, gave a talk on “Health system and policy research relevant for epidemics and emerging infections.” During his talk, he compared the infectious disease burden on the health systems of India and other developing countries. The role of microbiologists in public health was discussed, and he expressed that a microbiologist has a major impact on bettering public health in India. What Dr. Lalit expressed was important. However, at the end of the talk, some discussion took place, and a comment made by General Raghunath, a veteran microbiologist of the country, was appreciated by all. General Raghunath’s rhetoric questioned how serious the government and politicians are about improving the health infrastructure of India.

In fact, this is the question that should be addressed first for this country. Research projects involving high quality equipment, reagents and systems are not really essential to change the infectious disease burden on this country and the people. There are four basic infrastructure provisions that must be in place before scientific research can even begin, because without them, all research would just be a waste. It is very difficult and disturbing to spell out these provisions. What India needs are:...

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