TIES jointly with School of Medical Education, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, conducted a crash study in January, 2005 on the recurring hepatitis epidemic in the Kottayam Medical College hospital area. The study exposed the nexus of sewage and drinking water resources in the area. Extremely high levels of coliforms were detected in 81% of open wells as well as in 83% of bore wells in that locality. The study also revealed that only 49% of drinking water is of potable nature. Video footages on the leaking septic tanks and open drainages taken as a part of the study evoked much response in the society. After the publication of the report, several positive measures have been implemented.
A mugger found in an abandoned quarry pond in the midst of Jawahar Navodaya School, Kottayam was safely trapped and shifted to the Crocodile Protection Centre, Neyyar, Thiruvananthapuram. The mugger was first cited on 14th August 2005 by some workers who were cutting tree branches around the pond. The pond was situated in the middle part of the 29 acre school campus. There was no chance to find a mugger in such a situation, and as it was in the school campus it created a lot of panic and attracted media and public attention. As the school authorities and Forest Department were in a fix on how the mugger could be trapped, Tropical Institute of Ecological Sciences contacted Wildlife SOS, New Delhi and offered forest Department to provide the service of experts to rescue the crocodile scientifically and rehabilitate it properly. But the CCF rejected such a proposal saying that Department has experts at their Crocodile farm in Neyyar. On August 24th a three member rescue team consisting of Assistant Wildlife Warden and two animal keepers arrived at Navodaya School and after many tactics employed to trap the crocodile, on 26th August 2005, 3.52 am, the mugger was captured. The mugger was then shifted to Neyyar Crocodile Park. TIES documented the entire episode systematically and made a scientific analysis on the events. A documentary with the title – Schoolile Muthala (Crocodile at school) was published later.
TIES mushroom research division succeeded in developing a new high yielding variety of mushroom seed through scientific selection and cross breeding programme. The new seed is of assured production and devoid of contaminations of other fungi and bacteria. This development was made under the leadership of Mr.K.V.Mathew, director, Mushroom division and Mr. G.Pramod, Head Plant Pathology division of TIES.
A state level study was conducted to find out the prevalence of the practice of self medication among different sections of the community in Kerala. The study was in tune with the then recently concluded study among 19 European countries, and in technical collaboration with European Union study team. The project was started on May 2006 and concluded by November 2006. The major objectives of the project were to find out the pattern of antibiotic use without prescription among Kerala population, to find out the most commonly used antibiotics and their quantity, to analyze the socio-economic status of antibiotic use, without prescription, to list the major bacterial infections and corresponding antibiotics used for treatment, and to check the antibiotic resistance pattern of prevalent bacterial pathogens (major) with regard to commonly used antibiotics. The study revealed stunning facts on the public health behaviour of the state that 36% of Kerala population is consuming antibiotics without doctor’s consultation. Major antibiotics include ampicillin, amoxyxillin and ciprofloxacin. This is the pioneer community research project in Kerala which involved voluntary researchers, the jobless youth who have P.G. degree in life sciences and largest programme ever conducted in this state in the concerned area. This project is envisaged as a pilot programme of a mega project covering wide range of health related issues, and was completed within a period of five months.
The study was conducted to explore the ecological destructions on Pamba range of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The Karimala and Pamba Range of PTR had selected for the biodiversity assessment study. The study revealed severe ecological destructions of Sabarimala pilgrimage on plant diversity and nutrient profile of soil. Moreover decadal changes of the study area was also explored with the aid of Geoinformatics observed drastic conversion in dense forest area into other land use like settlements, open forest, grassland and barren area for the development of infrastructure of pilgrimage area.
The first phase of “Ecological Impact Assessment of Sabarimala Pilgrimage” hasbeen completed in November 2007. The exhaustive study covers detailed analysis onpollution of Pamba River water from ThriveniSangamam at Pamba to Kozhencherry.The study also analyzed the quality of water in adjoining drinking water resourcesneighbouring to Pamba River.A health survey on the fringe area community of Pamba River was also conducted.Similar survey was conducted with Meenachil River community too, in orderto compare the two. UG/PG students (86 students) from three colleges were trainedas Field Investigators and conducted the survey.The study revealed the serious situation of highly polluted Pamba River andadjoining drinking water resources. The impact of unscientific practices ofhyperchlorination was also reported.Health survey revealed that the morbidity as well as mortality rates were higher inPamba River community than that of Meenachil River community.
About 15 lakh people, predominantly from Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districtswere affected by viral fever characterized by severe joint pain during April -August 2007 period. Though there was a serious outcry for scientific investigations onthe epidemic, no initiatives were reported from governmental and nongovernmentalagencies. TIES voluntarily initiated a peripheral survey among the patient community in Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts during July 2008. A total of 290UG/PG students selected from six colleges from these districts were given one daytraining on survey methodology with a structured survey sheet. They met 1643 patientswith severe infections, one each from a household and collected the data regardingpersonal habits, fever related aspects and on environment and sanitationstatus. The survey technique was based on “WHO guidelines for peripheral survey atthe initial phase of an outbreak” and gave extensive data on different aspects of thefever epidemic. The most crucial finding of the study was that the 97% of theepidemic fevers was not Chikunguniya, which hit the proclamations of the governmentaland allied bodies. Due to the same reason the role of mosquito’s in spreadingthe fever was also questioned. Study has received warm welcome among the public, butthe authorities did not turned much to the findings.
Leptospirosis or rat fever is one of the most dreaded epidemic fever, that the state experienced till date and it is recurring in several parts of Kerala, since 1995. TIES has been conducting a surveillance study programme on Leptospirosis epidemic in the state in association with Leptospirosis Institute of Kerala, a collaborating laboratory of WHO/FAO Laboratory for Research and Extension, Queensland, Australia. The study covers all five major districts where the epidemic is recurring and also man and principal carrier animal, the rodents. A state level surveillance report was published and several research programmes are also progressing. In tune with the Leptospirosis studies and considering the fact that rats are the most noxious vertebrate pest on this earth, which can transmit more than 280 diseases including plague, a massive project on rodent borne diseases are also initiated. Several investigations covering various groups such as rodent borne bacterial, fungal and protozoal diseases are progressing. Ecological and epidemiological studies on various rodent borne diseases are also in progress.
Medicinal plants are one of the richest bio resources of our country but still a few are scientifically explored. Several active principles are isolated already but clear picture on the active principle that is responsible for the specific medicinal properties are not yet understood. TIES has initiated a number of phytochemical and pharmacognosy studies on little explored, but traditionally important medicinal plants of Kerala in order to find out the active principles and their commercial use. Five projects are progressing in this field.
An effort to utilise the biotechnology for ecological conservation has also been initiated. This is the most recent initiative of TIES and one of the mega projects too. The principal objective of the study is to develop tissue culture protocols for plants, especially fast disappearing medicinal plants and also that on the verge of extinction. The study will also attempt to find out suitable low cost media for such cultures.
Rice is the most important cereal crop in Asia and is considered as a model cereal plant for genetic and molecular studies. The research was conducted to identify the functions, modifications and regulations of every encoded protein. Twenty two different rice varieties were collected from different parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Proteins in the collected varieties were identifies and the seed samples were subjected to total protein content analysis and SDS-PAGE technique. The study helped to create a protein profile of all the twenty two varieties of rice varieties found in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The study also concluded that seed storage protein profiles could be useful markers in cultivar identification, registration of new varieties, pedigree analysis and in the studies of genetic diversity and classification of adapted cultivars, thereby improving the efficiency of rice breeding programs in cultivar development.
Open dumping of waste is the most common and conventionally practicing methods of Municipal Solid Waste Management in Kerala. Its result in every township, a suburban point is always in the media and public attention due to the public resistance against such dumps that cause severe pollution and health hazards to the fringe area community. Thus Vilappilsala in Thiruvananthapuram, Lalur in Thrissur, Mananchira in Kozhikode and Vadavathoor in Kottayam is known as ‘health or environmental bombs’. TIES, regularly collect data on the pollution caused by solid waste dumps to air, water, soil and human health and tries to develop sustainable solutions.
The unscientific waste disposal practices, especially in the form of open dumps create muchhealth problems to the interacting community. TIES conduct extensive studies around dumpingyard at Vadavathoor, the open dump of Municipal solid waste (MSW) from Kottayam municipalityarea. Leachate, air, house dust and drinking water resources around the yard were analyzed forbacteria and fungi. A total of 23 bacterial pathogens and 11 fungal pathogens were isolated fromleachate alone. On the other hand 24 bacteria and 9 fungi were obtained from drinking watersources around the yard. Air samples yielded 13 fungal pathogens. House dust collected fromthe houses within 50m radius included 17 fungi. The isolation of pathogenic organisms from variousmedia poses serious public health threat, hence immediate intervention for scientific management was recommended.The results submitted to the Municipal and public health authorities got wide media attentionand it is reported that steps have been taken to implement a comprehensive waste managementprogramme in near future.
Uses of chemical dyes are very costly and cause some allergic reactions. To reduce these problems, we can use biological dyes. About three pigment producing bacteria were isolated from the soil around TIES campus was subjected to dying process and all of them were able to dye the cloth successfully. Further studies are required to develop them as commercial agents.
Unscientific waste disposal mechanisms prevailing in developing countries often results in serious health hazards. The situation is not different in Kerala too. TIES initiated a study at Vadavathoor dumping yard and adjoining areas to monitor the microbial air quality. Eight fungal species were isolated from the compost, four were isolated from the surrounding soil and four were isolated from the waste. All belongs to the genera Aspergillus, Penicillium, Pyrenochetae and Trychophyton.
Several microorganisms including bacteria, fungus and actinomycetes are able to produce certain enzyme and have a wide range of applications. Five different pectinase enzyme producing fungus were isolated from decaying fruits and soil belonging to Penicilliumsp, Aspergillus sp and Pithomyces sp. The enzyme is used for the clarification of fruit juices. The protease and amylase producing bacteria were identified and isolated from milk waste containing soil and normal soil. They were identified as B. subtilis and B. megaterium. They are used to remove the starch containing and protein containing stains like stains with sauce, sweat, blood etc. Cellulase producing Actinomycetes, fungi and bacteria were isolated from ant hill soil and termite hill soil. Six bacteria, ten fungi and five actinomycetes were isolated. These are used in the degradation of cellulosic materials.
Rhizobacteria are root colonizing bacteria having a major role in plant growth promotion and can be used as biofertilizers. Continuous use of chemical fertilizer may lead to some health problems and also decrease the soil fertility. Biofertilizers can replace all these problems in reduced cost. Around twenty bacterial cultures were isolated from the rhizosphere region of various plants and subjected to various growth promotion studies. They are belonging to the genera Pseudomaonas, Bacillus and Rhizobium. These bacteria are able to fix nitrogen, produce IAA, ammonia and siderophore and also are able to solubilize bound form of phosphate into soluble form. These bacteria can also be used as biocontrol agents by producing hydrogen cyanide and volatile organic compounds. They are able to control the plant pathogen Corynesporacassicolla.
The project is the continuation of the previous year. Major sewage canals and tributaries of River Meenachil were assessed for bacterial pathogens. The result showed that all the adjoining and ground water systems were changed. The coliform count and other pathogenic organisms like Vibriyosp were also found to be very high above the permissible limit. Physicochemical parameters were also showed poor water quality and provide conclusive event for the growth of microorganisms.
Milk born diseases are common now a day. A number of microorganisms were present in improperly sterilized milk. This may lead to severe diseases. A comparative study was conducted with unpasteurized milk and different brands of milk. Among all the samples milma showed better result. E coli like pathogens were isolated from the samples.
Food borne illnesses are an emerging group of diseases with considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide. Even urban outbreaks are common. TIES initiated a project to evaluate the role of various cooking and preservation methods on the microbial flora of selected food items. About twenty bacterial pathogens were isolated from the tested food samples. Majority of the isolates have the potential to elicit diseases in humans and animals. Interestingly, present day cooking practices have no effect on the microbial flora.
Though Kerala is bestowed with floral richness, majority of the medicinal plants are left unexplored. TIES started to conduct wide research programmes on medicinal plants. Five medicinal plants Mureyakongii, Cassia fistula, Allium sativum, Premnaserratifolia and Psidiumguagava were tested for their antifungal properties at different concentrations against Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus flavus. Among this Mureyakongii, Allium sativumand Premnaserratifolia showed better result.
A study was conducted forMalayalaManorama daily on the drinking water quality of Kottayam district. Reporters of Manorama collected water samples in the prescribed manner from various sources such as open wells, public taps, KWA stations, bore wells from different parts of the district. The results gave stunning data on the water environment of the district that all the tested samples were highly contaminated with highly pathogenic organisms. The results were published in the news paper and evoked significant responses at all levels.
On the first week of February 2012, a rare phenomenon was reported at Pampady as there was a special rain called Yellow rain. Yellow colours sticky substances poured from the air like a rain, especially during the morning and evening time. Researchers from TIES collected the samples and conducted a detailed study. The study revealed that the yellow substance is the excrement of honey bees and it is a rare phenomena observed among honey bees when the environmental temperature increases abnormally. In order to keep the body temperature optimum they usually pumped out the food materials stored for honey preparation. The study got wide media and public attention.
Food samples were collected from various hotelsstreet vendors to isolate normal flora, bacterialand fungal pathogens. Isolated normal flora wastested for their bacteriocin activity against theisolated pathogens. Nineteen different bacterialpathogens and nine bacteriocin producers wereisolated from various samples. Among theisolates, Escherichia coli, Proteus sp, andKlebsiellaoxytoka showed highest bacteriocin activity against Enterobacter sp, K. pneumonia,Bacillus sp and Aeromonas sp. Bacteriocin canbe directly added to food items such as milk andmilk products to prevent diseases.
Several microorganisms including bacteria, fungus and actinomycetes are able to producecertain enzymes and have a wide range ofapplications. Six different cellulose producingmicrobes especially bacteria were isolated fromtermite hill soil on carboxy methyl cellulose agar using congored assay. Their enzyme producingefficiency was tested at different incubation time,pH, temperature, carbon source, nitrogen sourceand natural substrates like sugarcane baggasse, filter paper, rice bran, wheat bran and coconutcoir. The enzyme activity was measured usingDNSA method. The effect of enzyme was testedon denim, cotton and khadhar clothes. Maximumenzyme production was obtained at 72hrs, 300Cand pH 7.0. Glucose, peptone and wheat brawnwas served as the best nutrient source forenzyme production. Degradation studies showedthat they are able to degrade cotton and khadhar clothes more than denim cloth.
Milk products like yoghurt, cheese and curdwere collected as samples. Using MRS medium,three different Lactobacillus sp were isolatedfrom these samples under anaerobic conditions.Determination of optimal growth and pH,antibiotic and bile tolerance, their resistance togastric juice, and quantification of lactic acidproduction in milk were studied. It was observedthat the isolated Lactobacillus spp. Showedresistance to inhibitory substances like phenol(0.4%), NaCl (1-9%) and bile acid (0.05-0.3%).Good growths were observed in the presence of 1% NaCl and 0.3% bile acid. The isolatedLactobacillus spp. showed good survival abilitiesin acidic (pH 2.5) and alkaline (pH 8.5)conditions, while their maximum growth wasobserved at pH 6.5. Isolated lactobacilli wereable to produce organic acid in skim milk, whichwas determined by titrimetric method. TheLactobacillus spp. also did show good survivalabilities in simulated gastric juice at pH 2.22 andpH 6.6 (Control). Their susceptibility to selectednine antibiotics was determined in terms ofminimum inhibition concentration (MIC). TheMICs results showed that isolated Lactobacillusspp. were sensitive to some antibiotics. Theresults from the present experiments showedthat there were variations in probioticproperties of the isolated Lactobacillus spp.They are able to survive on food products formore than six weeks.
Biopreservative effect of bacteriocin onvarious food products was assessed. Bacteriocin producing strains were selected from intestinesof chick, prawn, fish and buffaloes. Six bacteriocin producers were isolated by checkingantimicrobial activity against P. aeruginosa, K.pneumonia, S. aureus, Bacillus sp and E. coli. The bacteriocin was purified using ammoniumsulphate precipitation and dialysis. Bacteriocin stability was determined at differenttemperature, pH and enzymes. Biopreservative efficacy was tested using fish and apple juice. The bacteriocin which was proteinacious in nature was stable at 370C and in acidic pH. Their biopreservative effect on refrigerated foods showed low count of colonies. The study showed that bacteriocin producing strains can be successfully used as biopresevative and to increase shelf-life of food products.
Antagonistic endophytic bacteria were isolatedfrom different parts of various plants and nonrhizosphere soil was also collected. Theplant pathogens were isolated from differentplants and identified as Corynespora sp. And Curvularia sp. Antagonists was selected bydetermining HCN production and volatileorganic compound production. Growthpromoting activity was also analysed by studyingIAA production. Most of the isolates are able tocontrol plant diseases and able to promote plantgrowth.
Extracts of five different mushroom samples like Pleurotusanathan, P. eous, Ganodermasp and CO-2 was prepared to studytheir antioxidant activity and antimicrobialactivity against five pathogenic bacteria P.aeruginosa, K. pneumonia, S. aureus, Bacillus spand E. coli. The antibacterial activity ofmushroom sample were studied using differentsolvents like ethanol, ethanol, ethyl acetate,chloroform and dichloromethane at differentconcentrations like 0.25 mg, 2.5 mg and 25 mg.The results vary with respect to differentsolvents. The extracts were highly effective forS. aureus, Bacillus sp, P. aeruginosa and K.pneumoniae. The extracts were less effectiveagainst E.coli. The minimum inhibitoryconcentrations (MIC) showed that most of thepathogens are inhibited at a concentration of0.25 mg/ml. All the results obtained showed that Ganodermasp has higher antioxidant activity. SOD was highest in P. Eous, followed byP florida and others show no activity. Thephenolic content was highest in Ganoderma sp.and others have less phenolic content. Thepresent investigation indicated that metaboliteobtained from these five mushroom samplespossess significant antimicrobial and antioxidantactivities, which might be due to the presenceof different phytochemicals. The findings thussuggest metabolites as a potential therapeuticsto control diseases and as a food supplement.
The efficiency of the solvents in extraction varieswith the isolates. The optical density value ofthe pigments was decreased after dyeing thanbefore dyeing the cloths. Percentage ofabsorption was high in the methanolic extract of Serratia sp. and water soluble pigment ofPseudomonas sp. The microbial dye was notremoved during washing of the cloths. Thechromatographic studies found that thepigments contained both lipids and proteins.The study concluded that bacteria can be usedas a potential source to cultivate dyes, whichcan be adequately applied on textile.
Microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes that are able to degrade domestic wastes were isolated from various samples like compost, soil, waste and soils surrounding the dumping yard. The isolates were selected on the basis of their capability to produce enzymes such as amylase, protease, polyphenolase, lipase and cellulase. The bestenzyme producers were screened for their compatibility. Non compatible strains were selected to prepare microbial consortium using talc powder. Six treatments were designed for the study, control (waste alone), waste +consortium, and waste + consortium + saw dust, for aerobic and anaerobic conditions like pipe and kamba compost. Physical, chemical and biological parameters were also monitored for25 days. Waste + consortium + saw dust in aerobic condition showed good results. This project is a part of the Home Composting Machine Project, which is in progress with financial aid from KSCSTE, in collaboration with Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Technology (RIT), Kottayam.
Mushroom farming is one of the most lucrative agriculture crops, which earns significant benefits to the farmer as well as to the consumer. Its ecological benefits are also valuable. However, regular occurrences of microbial contamination in mushroom farming discourage most of the enthusiastic farmers. Consequently, TIES has initiated a research programme to find contaminant microbial profile, viable and cost effective solutions. The project is progressing with commendable results, taking inputs from TIES mushroom club members.
Plastic is ubiquitous, and it has become a severe threat worldwide in terms of its ecological disadvantages. Attempts to degrade plastics using microorganisms are at its infant stage. To find an innovative solution, TIES has also launched a project to find plastic degrading fungi from natural conditions and to assess their biodegradation capability in relation to various plastic materials. The study is in progress and has noticed several micro-fungal strains that are capable to degrade plastics.