Mumbai: Almost 40 years after a young ‘rural doctor’ from Konkan worked out an algorithm to manage hitherto fatal red scorpion stings in the most basic healthcare settings, he still gets praises from around the medical world. This time, the praise for 74-year-old Dr Himmatrao Bawaskar, who has a hospital in Mahad—roughly 170km from Mumbai—has come from Chinese researchers. Their appreciation has been published as a letter, titled ‘Reducing scorpion sting fatality rate to 1% in India’, in the latest edition of ‘The Lancet’, one of the most read medical journals. In 2022, Dr Bawaskar got the Padma Shri for his work in anti-scorpion venom.“I am most proud that my scorpion research has been acknowledged by China’s scientists. It is a great achievement for India,” Dr Bawaskar told TOI. Chinese researchers from the National Key Laboratory of Green Pesticide, Guizhou University, noted that in the 1970s scorpion bites had over 40% fatality. Stating that Mahad and its surrounding areas are home to one of the most poisonous red scorpions (Mesobuthus tamulus) in the world, they wrote if a person was stung by it in a village in the 1980s, they would not survive the night.“Most people living in villages of India had no cure for poisonous scorpion stings and died without proper treatment; no proper medication was available and the medical knowledge of doctors was insufficient to address scorpion sting victims. This norm was broken by a village-born physician named Dr Himmatrao Bawaskar,” it said.It noted that Dr Bawaskar not only invented a treatment for scorpion sting envenomation, but also travelled across rural India to educate doctors about it. “His treatment approaches reduced the fatality rate from 40% in the 1970s to 1% in 2014,” said the Lancet piece.Incidentally, Dr Bawaskar described his treatment in an article in The Lancet in 1986, a period when original medical research from India was rarely chronicled in foreign academic world. The Indian Academy of Pediatrics, in its standard treatment guidelines 2022, mentions him as the “unsung warrior and living legend who first gave prazosin in scorpion envenomation management in rural Maharashtra”. Meanwhile, the Chinese letter in The Lancet is followed by one by Dr Bawaskar on “India’s forgotten children”, a follow-up on a topic he wrote on in 2003. “Since then, little has changed in the context of children’s health globally,” he wrote. Despite “remarkable reductions” in viral and bacterial diseases, he said poverty and illiteracy are still rampant in rural settings, resulting in malnutrition and sepsis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *