Ganga has higher proportion of antibacterial agents: study

‘The isolated components hold great potential as an antibacterial pharmaceutical’

April 19, 2019 10:00 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 09:50 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Ganga in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

The Ganga in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

A study commissioned by the Union Water Resources Ministry to probe the “unique properties” of the Ganga found that the river water contains a significantly higher proportion of organisms with antibacterial properties.

Other Indian rivers also contain these organisms but the Ganga — particularly in its upper Himalayan stretches — has more of them, the study suggests.

The study, ‘ Assessment of Water Quality and Sediment To Understand Special Properties of River Ganga ,’ began in 2016 and was conducted by the Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI), a CSIR lab. The NEERI team was tasked with assessing the water quality for “radiological, microbiological and biological” parameters in the Bhagirathi (a feeder river of the Ganga) and the Ganga at 20 sampling stations.

 

As part of the assessment, five pathogenic species of bacteria (Escherichia, Enterobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio) were selected and isolated from the Ganga, Yamuna and the Narmada and their numbers compared with the bacteriophages present in the river water. Because bacteriophages are a kind of virus that kill bacteria, they are frequently found in proximity to each other.

“In the river Ganga, the bacteriophages were detected to be approximately 3 times more in proportion than bacterial isolates,” the study’s authors wrote in the report’s synopsis analysed by The Hindu .

Though it isn’t evident that there are bacteriophage species unique to the Ganga, the study suggests there are many more of them in the Ganga than in other rivers. Thus, samples drawn from the Ganga contained almost 1,100 kinds of bacteriophage, and proportionally there were less than 200 species detected in the samples obtained from the Yamuna and the Narmada.

However, these antibacterial properties varied widely along the length of the river. For instance, the stretch from Gomukh to Tehri had 33% more bacteriophage isolates than from Mana to Haridwar, and Bijnor to Varanasi. In the stretch from Patna to Gangasagar, the bacteriophages were only 60% of that in the Gomukh to Tehri stretch.

That the Ganga may contain unique microbial life, which makes it relatively more resilient to putrefaction, was suggested by British colonial scientists about 200 years ago. “This study was commissioned to test these properties using the latest scientific techniques and knowledge,” said Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director-General, National Mission for Clean Ganga.

“The super-phage isolated from Ganga and decoded for its lysine gene and cloned to produce lysine protein at IIT Roorkee holds great potential as an antibacterial pharmaceutical,” the report asserts.

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