The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc around the globe and various countries are racing against time to find a vaccine which are in various stages of research and clinical testing.
In India too clinical trials have begun but as yet there is no firm indication when the vaccine will be available.
Meanwhile, given its rich heritage in alternative medicinal systems, traditional methods of treatment too are putting up their hand for a potential cure.
In Tamil Nadu, doctors from the native Siddha medical system doctors have dug deep into their texts and come up with a treatment regimen.
Researchers from the Siddha Central Research Institute functioning under the Central Council of Research in Siddha , under the ministry of Ayush, have devised a Yakkai Ilakkanam tool after comprehensive review of Siddha literature and research.
'Yi stands for Yakkaiyin Illakanam, which in English means body constitution. This diagnostic tool is based on the Siddha concept. And we have found that there's a relationship between the Yi tool and COVID-19,' Dr P Sathyarajeswaran, assistant director in charge of the Central Siddha Research Institute in Chennai, told the media recently.
This tool apparently aids doctors in deciding the appropriate treatment and right nutritious diet to be administered to the infected and help them recover faster.
Dr Sathyarajeswaran holds an MD degree in Siddha treatment from the Government Siddha Medical College in Palayamkottai and an MPhil in Siddha from the Tamil University, Thanjavur. He has submitted his PhD thesis to the Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University.
In an interview to A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com, Dr Sathyarajeswaran, below, outlines how Siddha treatment can help covid patients.
How scientific is this Yi tool that you all are advocating?
The Yi tool has been developed after going through rigorous scientific steps.
Pooling of items from Siddha classics with specific philosophical perspective, systematic itemwise database, Edwards criteria of removing repetitive and ambiguous words, pilot study, discriminant factor analysis, focus group discussion, main study, statistical tests of validity, reliability, expert panel discussion have all been undergone before finalising it.
How does the Yi tool work? What are its advantages?
The Yi tool comprises 37 questions in toto.
With attributes corresponding to the three udaliyal (body constitution) types (Vali, Azhal, Aiyam, which correspond to Vatha, Pitha and Kapha).
Among the 37, three questions are dichotomous, designed in such a way that each of the three questions correspond directly to one particular udaliyal type.
Scores are calculated by way of the responses generated by the participants and when totalled, the type with the highest scoring sum is the preponderant body constitution of the participant.
The advantages of udaliyal can be defined in terms of clinical application and research oriented outcomes.
In a clinical set-up, a physician well-acquainted with the udaliyal of the person and associated traits can approach the disease with customised treatment regimens, suitable adaptations in dietary and behavioural therapies which in itself will help to document the versatility of the Siddha system for addressing large public health concerns.
How fail-proof IS this Yi tool? Can it give a wrong result?
The tools maximise the chance of identifying single, response-oriented, appropriate type of udaliyal. This is done by the three dichotomous type questions in the Yi tool.
With the Yes/No options, they present an exclusive disjunction with respect to each type of udaliyal. They drive the response obtained towards a linear direction.
One of the complaints against the alternate medicinal systems is that there are no rigorous trials and testing before a treatment regiment or drug is declared fit for human use?
It is not true. The ministry of Ayush released Ayush GCP guidelines in 2013 and Ayush systems, particularly Siddha, adopts the same.
In COVID-19, as there are no direct treatment options or research available, based on the symptoms of the disease and using the drug repurposing technique, the ministry of Ayush released guidelines in which formulations hypothesised for symptom management and formulations which were earlier used in other viral diseases have been advocated.
However, the Central Council for Research in Siddha has attempted all phases of evidence-based clinical steps from case studies to randomised controlled trials.
These studies are being undergone in the medical colleges of Tamil Nadu. All the trials are cleared by the Institutional Ethics Committee and properly registered in the Clinical Trial Registry of India.
Two randomised controlled trials, one standalone Siddha intervention trial, and a large sample population prophylaxis studies are on the anvil.
Tamil Nadu has been undertaking major research into the Siddha medical system and how it can help in the treatment of COVID-19. Do you have any insights about this research?
The Siddha Central Research Institute is a part and parcel of the research happening in Tamil Nadu. We help them in developing protocols and statistical analysis.
How does the Siddha form of treatment differ from, say, Ayurveda?
As the twin systems of the subcontinent have some congruences, the major differences in their fundamental principles, disease diagnosis, pre-treatment procedures are not noticed by the common man.
The nomenclature similarity of formulations like Thaleesathi Chooranam, Elathy Chooranam do not allow the educated community even to look into the ingredients and indication differences of these formulations. So people misunderstand that both are the same.
The cultural, linguistic and scientific differences are not noticed. However, both the systems are unique and serve the common man by and large.
How efficacious is Siddha treatment, in your opinion? What are its advantages over the popular allopathy?
Every system has its own strength and limitations. The strength of Siddha lies in treating the cause and not the symptom. Limitations are treating acute conditions like MI (myocardial infarction or heart attack), RTA (renal tubular acidosis) and grievous injuries.
The adverse effects of Siddha treatment are less compared to allopathic interventions. Out-of-pocket expenses and side-effects of interventions are major concern in non-communicable diseases as the patients have to take it for a longer duration.
Patients feel solace with the Siddha system, particularly the elderly population.
How do you find the government's attitude towards Siddha treatment? Is it encouraging?
Both the state and central government are supporting Siddha. However, due to linguistic boundaries Siddha was once limited to Tamil Nadu. Now Siddha establishments are slowly increasing in Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and New Delhi. This all happened with the support of the ministry of Ayush.
The state government is keen on inclusion of Siddha in public health approaches. The infrastructure of many institutes has been developed. However, recruitments are less, not on par with allopathy, which should be taken as a scope to improve Siddha. More budgetary allotment to Siddha will help improve the system.
Do you find that people are willing to try out Siddha treatment?
Footfall towards Siddha hospitals is an example of the willingness of the people. Footfall is increasing day by day.
There is a common saying that only 9% of people turn to Ayush as per a national survey report. But people should understand if 3% of budget allotted to the ministry of Ayush fetches 9% population. Willingness and foot fall will definitely spike if more establishments are there.
Do you have any documented case of a COVID-19 patient being cured by Siddha treatment?
Not one single, but multiple trials are there to quote. However, these will be published as scientific manuscripts. This includes integrative as well as standalone approaches in Covid mitigation.