Rice being a staple of natives in Uttarakhand is widely cultivated in Haridwar and neighbouring districts. Every monsoon season, the cases of paddy field farmers facing problems of fungal infections on skin tend to rise. However, the indigenously developed plasma jet technology could provide effective treatment.
Due to excessive itching, the lesions appearing on the skin of farmers who stand for hours in waterlogged fields, start bleeding. Sometimes disfigurement occurs and amputation of limbs becomes necessary when infection increases. Haridwar district hospital chief medical officer Dr Prem Lal states, “Inoculation of the fungus through the skin of plants or soil contamination leads to infection.
The farmers, animal breeders and foresters are most at risk. Labourers working in rice fields often come to us complaining of fungal infections during this season.” Many a time, the limbs need to be amputated if not cured, added Dr Lal.
Instead of application of ointments and creams, the plasma jet technology devised by researchers from Institute of Plasma Research (IPR) could prove helpful. Scientific officer and head of IPR Gujarat’s outreach division, Dr Ravi AV Kumar said, “Currently this device has been tested only on a small number of patients and only one particular fungal infection, which is common among farmers -- Tinea Cruris.
We have plans to carry out large scale clinical trials on various fungal infections on skin using this plasma jet technology. The portable plasma apparatus along with helium gas cylinder and a portable power supply is all that is needed, and can be placed in emergency response vehicles.
Once the technology is clinically approved, it will be very useful for medical applications” How the faint pink light of the plasma coming out of a pen-like structure helps in healing wounds is that it helps in reducing the clotting time of blood in wounds.
The natural time taken for blood clotting in a wound is approximately 200 seconds, while treatment with this plasma torch reduces the clotting time to around 20-30 seconds.
This study is only in its very preliminary stages and once this technology is medically approved, this can be used in emergency situations, where quick clotting of blood can prevent blood loss and can hence increase the chances of saving the life of the injured, said Ravi Kumar.
The other potential applications of plasma jet include possible treatment of surface cancers, sterilisation of surgical tools and bleaching of teeth.