Padma Shree awardee for his path-breaking research in rabies, Omesh Kumar Bharti, who is a state epidemiologist with the Himachal Pradesh Institute of Health and Family Welfare has now been included in the WHO’s panel of experts for strategic plan for control and prevention of snakebite envenoming.
Accepting his expertise on snakebite management, a communique by the Department for the Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases of the WHO to Bharti on Wednesday said, “Your expertise and knowledge are highly valuable to WHO as it operationalises and rolls out the strategic plan and from time to time, we may request your technical support and assistance for projects.”
Bharti, 53, told IANS that it is a matter of great honour for him as along with rabies, he had been simultaneously working on snakebite management for long.
Part of national consultations on snakebite management, Bharti is Co-Principal Investigator in the Rs 7-crore project sanctioned by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for the first ever study to know the snakebite incidence in India.
The project involves screening of 12 crore population for snakebite cases in eight states, including Himachal Pradesh.
“In a separate study, we are conducting a survey to know the snake species in Himachal Pradesh in association with a team headed by Anita Malhotra, a molecular ecologist and evolutionary geneticist from Bangor University in North Wales in the UK, with requisite permission from the state forest department over last three years,” he said.
“The larger objective of the study, which involves catching snakes, taking traces of venom and DNA samples before releasing the reptiles in the same habitat, is to see the efficacy of available anti-snake venom in snakebite cases region wise,” he added.
Bharti’s research paper based on lifesaving intervention, wherein snakebite victims were administered anti-snake venom in the 108 emergency ambulance while on way to hospital in Himachal Pradesh was referenced in WHO guidelines on snakebite management in 2016.
The intervention had promoted six other states and UTs in the country to follow the pattern.
Out of the estimated one lakh deaths due to snakebite across the globe annually, nearly half occur in India.
Bharti’s need-based research to treat rabid dog bite patients In Himachal Pradesh had brought down the cost of dog bite treatment from Rs 35,000 to Rs 350.
His cost, time and lifesaving treatment protocol for rabies prophylaxis was recommended by the WHO in 2018.
The revised guidelines of the WHO on rabies prophylaxis referenced Bharti’s research work that he had carried out at the Intra Dermal Anti-Rabies Clinic and Research Centre of the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya (DDU) Hospital in Shimla.