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India to begin minimally invasive autopsies in cases of child deaths

Under-five child deaths in India will be examined through minimally invasive autopsies to ascertain the exact cause of death, which will benefit in districts like Gorakhpur where child deaths are high

health Updated: Dec 02, 2017 23:09 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The under five mortality rate in India stands at 50 per 1000 live births. (Representative Photo)

Under-five child deaths in India will be examined through minimally invasive autopsies to ascertain the exact cause of death, which will benefit in districts like Gorakhpur where child deaths are high.

The under five mortality rate in India stands at 50 per 1000 live births. The pilot project that will begin in January, 2018, at New Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital, is a part of the global CHAMPS— Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance, project, wherein tissue biopsies of the brain, liver, spleen and other tissues are taken in a minimally invasive way.

“As of now, the cause of about 70-80% of the deaths in India is not known. The deaths are largely attributed to heart attack but there has to be some condition that triggered the attack, which is what we will be able to find out through this project,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, former director-general, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

For six months— January to June, all child deaths that take place at Safdarjung hospital will be examined. Informed consent will be taken from the parents.

“Post-mortem is a cumbersome process and also consent for the procedure is not easily obtained due to several reasons including social stigma, religious beliefs and fear of body mutilation. This way we will get results and the body will also not be disfigured,” she said.

The results from the Safdarjung project will be used as a reference point to replicate it at Gorakhpur district in UP, where child mortality is high and the cause that triggers Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), which is known to claim the lives of several children every year, is mostly unknown.

ICMR has also tied up with Columbia University to know what triggers encephalitis— swelling in the brain, in children in Gorakhpur.