By Rimli Bhattacharya
In 2007, the doctors at Lilavati hospital, Mumbai, gave up all the hopes on my father. He as suffering from multiple transmissible indispositions. A heavily pregnant me still clung to hopes. When I asked the doctors for alternatives, Dr. Abhay Bhave, the hematologist under whom my father was initially admitted, referred to the infectious disease specialist Dr. Om Shrivastav.
Infectious disease calls for a broad spectrum of discussion in medical science. The geneses of this malady are microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites, which are commonly called pathogens. If untreated, the pathogens mutate and metastasize in the body and can spread to another person. They can also kill the victim and my father’s case had been no exception either. When I first met Dr. Shrivastav, I found him a sensitive young man who said to my father, “Look professor you are standing on very thin ice. Your daughter is going through a difficult pregnancy and she cannot look after you. You need to get yourself admitted under my supervision.” Since then there has been several episodes of my father getting admitted in a terribly sick condition. Each time Dr. Shrivastav has returned my father back home healthy, hearty and alive.
Dr. Shrivastav had once aspired to become a writer but fate had willed otherwise. His dream of being a writer was fulfilled when he authored a chapter in the book, Amoebiasis, based on the notorious disease, published by Mcgraw Hill in 2011. The book has been translated in several languages and is used in many medical schools. He has also co-authored “Infections in Immuno compromised patients – ICU protocol Book”. His latest work is an article, “Nine year trends of dengue virus infection in Mumbai, Western India.” He has also published in twenty-nine international medical journals on infectious diseases.
Noted for his active work and research, he has been nominated the chairperson of INFECON, the international conference for infectious diseases and HIV, which is held every two years. He has a very strong media presence where his opinion is taken on multiple platforms on matters of infectious diseases. He has more than 900 appearances collectively in the media.
Dr. Shrivastav was kind enough to spare some time out of his busy schedule for this candid interview. The excerpts:
Rimli Bhattacharya: Tell us something about yourself, your education and your background.
Dr. Om Shrivastav: I am an MBBS and MD in Medicine from Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), Karad, followed by training in Australia for 8 years in infectious diseases and immunology.
RB: What are your areas of specialization?
OS: Immunology and infectious diseases.
RB: What made you choose the path less trodden? I mean why did you choose to treat infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS which can prove equally fatal to you?
OS: Risk of these infections to the treating doctors is always overrated. There is always a need to exercise precaution to oneself and ensure that risk of transmission of an infection is kept to bare minimum.
RB: Looking at the current scenario it seems that the infectious diseases in India are on a rise. What is the reason?
OS: Yes they are on a rise and it is more to do with awareness and reporting of the disease. Earlier several infections went unnoticed and there were causalities with none to report the same. Also there is some more importance of infectious diseases being recognized more over the last few years, to name a few – flu, tuberculosis, waterborne infections and other respiratory tract infections.
RB: Are antibiotics the only solution in treating an infectious disease? Or do you suggest some alternative therapy.
OS: There is a clear benefit of treatment in mainstream therapy, i.e. allopathy and antibiotics. However, there may be benefits in other therapies as well but I cannot comment.
RB: Sometimes a patient grows antibiotic resistant. What is the reason?
OS: The biggest reason for it is that the patient does not finish the treatment. Patients sometimes consume non-prescribed medications and they also self-medicate. The other major reason is the use of antibiotics in poultry and agricultural industry.
RB: What is the most important strategy that the medical fraternity needs to follow to arrest an infection?
OS: It is important to know NOT TO self-medicate IF YOU ARE A DOCTOR.
RB: What are the various types of infections that you handle? What has been your success rate in treating the same?
OS: All kind of infections, to name a few H1N1, Dengue, Chikungunya, Tuberculosis, Meningitis, Pneumonia, Chicken Pox and Vector Borne Illnesses.
The success rate is dependent on what stage we meet the patient.
RB: What is the mortality rate in case of HIV/AIDS? Can a person be completely cured of HIV?
OS: As of now there is no cure but the disease has been partially kept under control. There are a number of promising therapies under process which might make it completely controllable in the long run. In future we may even get a complete cure of this affliction.
As I said earlier, the success rate depends on what stage we meet the patient. If diagnosed early the patient can lead a healthy life throughout his/her entire life span.
RB: The ART (Anti Retroviral Therapy) medicines are not affordable to the poor and also those medicines have tremendous side effects. How do patients manage?
OS: Yes they are costly but a lot of government centers make those medicines available.
There is no medication without a side effect but you got to tailor the treatment in such a way so that the patient has the best response.
RB: Doctors are often accused of overcharging a patient and also for recommending unnecessary tests and hospitalizations. What do you say?
OS: Everybody charges what they think are appropriate.
Regarding unnecessary tests and hospitalizations, we have no control on someone’s pre-assumed notion but I definitely call for tests and hospitalizations when required.
RB: Which are the hospitals you are associated with now? Can your email ID and cell number be shared?
OS: I am the Director of Infectious diseases at Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai; Professor of Infectious Diseases at D.Y.Patil institute, Navi Mumbai; Consultant at Reliance H.N. hospital and Saifee Hospital, Mumbai.
You may write to me at: email@example.com. I can also be reached through my cell number + 91 9869118780.
RB: Any plans for further future specializations?
OS: Infectious diseases itself is a super specialty segment. We need to always keep ourselves professionally equipped and also crisp as much as one can do.
RB: Any health tips for the masses?
OS: Eat well, sleep well, take your medicines regularly, and vaccinate yourself. Remember there is wisdom in enjoying a healthy life.
RB: Thank you for your time.
OS: Thank you.
Rimli Bhattacharya completed Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology. After obtaining an MBA, she worked in the corporate sector. Rimli is a trained Indian classical dancer, based out of Mumbai, India. She tweets at: @rimli76
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Writing in Academia”, edited by Anannya Dasgupta, Krea University and Madhura Lohokare, O. P. Jindal Global University, India.