The history of medicine is replete with groundbreaking medical interventions that have saved humanity from a plethora of diseases. For ORS, the story is no different.
Dr Dilip Mahalanabis’s path-breaking medical discovery is estimated to have saved over 50 million lives globally.
He conducted a remarkable series of treatments in 1971 at a refugee camp in Bangaon, West Bengal. where the death toll due to cholera was rising each day.
The only solution was to use an intravenous (IV) drip to rehydrate people suffering from diarrhoea.
“Within 48 hours of arriving there, I realised we were losing the battle because there was not enough IV (drip), and only two members of my team were trained to give IV fluids,” he says.
In a bid to find an alternative, he allowed untrained people to give the oral rehydration solution (ORS) amid continuous criticism and resistance from clinicians.
He prepared several drums of the ORS and asked the family and relatives of patients to keep giving the ORS to them.
“Within two or three weeks, we realised that it was working and that it seemed to be all right in the hands of untrained people. At that time, we coined the term ‘oral saline’,” he says.
With this, over 50 million lives were saved globally. And since then, more and more physicians started prescribing ORS to win the battle against diarrhoeal diseases.
Last year, Dr Dilip died at the age of 87. Recently, he was conferred the Padma Vibhushan (Medicine) posthumously for his selfless service to humanity.