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10th January '2013
The scientist deserving acclaim!

As the proverb goes, Kashmiris have many outstanding people among them who have been forgotten by the local population, not to talk of recognising or honouring them! Mulla Tahir Ghani, the renowned Persian poet who belongs to Kashmir is more known in Iran than in Kashmir. He wrote over a hundred thousand verses in Persian. There have been many other people in history whose origin was Kashmiri but they found recognition outside Kashmir. The examples of Dr. Iqbal, known as the poet of the East and Jawahar Lal Nehru are too well known. In the recent times, many Kashmiris have excelled in different fields such as medicine, information technology, and space research and many other areas. They have received appreciable acclaim outside Kashmir but have remained unknown and unsung in their own homeland.


Among these is Dr. Mohammad Sultan Khuroo, the globally renowned gastroenterologist. Dr. Khuroo has been conducting research all his life. He has over 300 research papers to his credit. He has travelled all over the world to give presentations about his research and is widely known and respected in the world medical fraternity especially among the gastroenterologists. Dr. Khuroo, who was born in Sopore, completed his MBBS and MD through the Government Medical College in Srinagar. He did his DM through the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Chandigarh. He is the fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, U.K.; fellow of American College of Physicians, and master of American College of Physicians. Apart from being the head of the gastroenterology department of the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, he has been its Director from1993 to 1995. He has worked in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as a consultant gastroenterologist for over 12 years.

Dr. Khuroo has been instrumental in discovering Hepatobiliary and pancreatic ascariasis (a major health problem in endemic areas like Kashmir); discovering non-surgical treatment of hepatic Hydatid cysts (commonly known as PAIR technique) and establishing drug treatment of bleeding peptic ulcer (now used Worldwide and saving millions of lives); to name a few. However, it is the discovery of hepatitis E and its etiological agent hepatitis E virus for which he is acclaimed as a discoverer worlwide. Hepatitis E is quite fatal form of Hepatitis. The discovery of Hepatitis-E was no mean achievement. It was acclaimed worldwide by the medical fraternity and he has received national and international awards from innumerable medical associations; NIH USA; CDC USA; and foreign Governments. In fact, couple of years back the discovery was considered by the Noble Prize Committee but they decided to wait till vaccine for the disease is developed. The discovery of this E-strain was made during an epidemic in Kashmir in 1978. 200 hundred villages with a population of 600,000 were affected by the disease. Dr. Khuroo conducted a detailed house to house survey of the affected villages with 500 health workers. It was found that the disease lacked the serological markers of acute Hepatitis-A and Hepatitis-B. Based on these data it was conceived that a new form of hepatitis virus was the likely cause of this disease. Dr. Khuroo sent the sera of the disease to many international laboratories which confirmed that these lacked the markers of the HAV infection. The Medical Fraternity was initially very sceptical and it took them 10 years to finally confirm the existence of the new virus known as Hepatitis-E. The Hepatitis vaccine has been tested in many places including China where it was found 100% successful. The global community is now waiting for its prime time use.


Incidentally, Dr. Khuroo will be celebrating his 68th birthday on January 17. I had met Dr. Khuroo in early nineties as his patient of hyper-acidity. I remember an interesting but elating incident about it. He performed an endoscopy and subsequently prescribed what was known as triple regime treatment for me. After a couple of weeks I travelled to Switzerland to attend a mountaineering film conference in the city of Diablerets. I was met at the Geneva airport by my friend Sylvain Saudan, the impossible skier who was those days conducting heli-skiing in Kashmir. Having known about my illness he had made an appointment for me with the top most gastroenterologist of Switzerland whose consultation fee was rupees five thousand in Indian rupees. We drove from the airport straight to the clinic. On being asked what my ailment was, I showed him the prescription of Dr. Khuroo. He immediately told me that I was receiving the best treatment and he was an ardent follower of Dr. Khuroo in this field. He immediately returned the consultation fee and advised me to stick to the treatment prescribed by Dr. Khuroo which was the latest in the field. I was really elated to know that we had such a famous physician among us. Unfortunately, we had failed to judge his worth and as the Kashmiri saying goes, we did not even recognise and own him! After his sentimental return from Saudi Arabia to serve his people in Kashmir, Dr. Khuroo in his article, “My journey back to Kashmir” says that, “We in Kashmir, should move in the direction of peace and prosperity and have a society free of corruption and nepotism and of course, have a health delivery system which fulfils the expectations and needs of a common man”. Let us hope his prayers are answered and he also gets the acclaim among his own people which he greatly deserves.

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