Pioneer of oral rehydration theory Dr Dilip Mahalanabis passes away at age of 87 – Medical Dialogues

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Kolkata: Renowned physician who pioneered the use of oral rehydration theory for the treatment of diarrhoeal diseases and the development of Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), Dr Dilip Mahalanabis, passed away at the age of 87.
He was suffering from lung infection and other old-age ailments and died at a private hospital in Kolkata on October 16.
He had hit the headlines during the Liberation War in Bangladesh in 1971 when the doctor saved thousands of lives with the oral rehydration solution during an outbreak of cholera while serving in a refugee camp at Bangaon in West Bengal.
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Expressing grief at his passing away, the Director of the Institute of Child Health, Dr Apurba Ghosh said Mahalanabis was a pioneer in the treatment of cholera and enteric diseases through low-cost methods.
“His contributions will forever be remembered,” Ghosh said.

Dr. Mahalanabis was made a member of the WHO’s Diarrhoeal Disease Control Programme in 1983 for over five years.
Born on November 12, 1934, in West Bengal, studied in Kolkata and London and joined the Johns Hopkins University International Centre for Medical Research and Training in Kolkata in the 1960s, where he carried out research in oral rehydration therapy. During the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, Dr. Mahalanabis used the ORT in the refugee camps which accommodated 350,000 refugees, in West Bengal,
Dr. Dilip Mahalanabis instructed his staff to distribute the ORT for the treatment of over 3,000 patients. With the ORT, the death rate dropped to only 3% in comparison with 20 – 30% using only intravenous fluid therapy. This was the first large-scale use of oral rehydration solution in a disaster situation. As a result, it gained International Health Organization’s recognition and its application was spread worldwide.
He worked as a Medical Officer in the Diarrheal Disease Control Programme of the World Health Organization, Geneva, and served as the Director of Clinical Research at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (ICDDR,B), Bangladesh.
He was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and a co-recipient of the Pollin Prize in Pediatric Research (Year 2002) and the Prince Mahidol Prize (Year 2006) for his role in the development and application of oral rehydration therapy.

The Society for Applied Studies (SAS) was established by him in the Year 1990 in West Bengal with a vision of “Improved Health and Quality of Life” in India and other developing countries, especially for children and women. SAS has now expanded to the Centre for Health Research and Development, Society for Applied Studies (CHRD-SAS), New Delhi.

In 2002 Dr. Mahalanabis, Dr. Nathaniel Pierce, Dr. David Nalin, and Dr. Norbert Hirschhorn, were awarded the first Pollin Prize in Pediatric Research for their contributions to the discovery and implementation of oral rehydration therapy. In 2006 Dr. Mahalanabis, Dr. Richard A. Cash, and Dr. David Nalin were awarded the Prince Mahidol Prize, also for their role in the development and application of oral rehydration therapy.
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Exploring and learning something new has always been my sole motto. I completed my BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from Calcutta University. I joined Medical Dialogues in 2022. I mainly cover the latest health news, hospital news, medical college, and doctors’ news.
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