Shambhu Nath De

Dr. Shambhu Nath De (1915-1985) was a medical scientist of India best known for is unparalleled role in the fight with Cholera.  Cholera is a dreaded bacterial disease. The causative bacterium enters our body via the contaminated water and food, goes to the intestine, multiplies and produces a toxin which causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting. The patient dies of acute dehydration.

  • How this toxin works, was a puzzle for the scientists for a long time. In 1950s, Dr. Shambhu Nath De of Kolkata Medical College demonstrated for the first time that the toxin was secreted out of the bacterial cell and it worked within the intestine. Thus he nullified a long-standing misconception of many eminent scientists that the toxin spread through blood all over the body.
  • His paper was published in Nature in 1959. The paper Cholera toxin/determination of precise mechanism how cholera is caused by S N De is considered “a milestone in the history of cholera research”. He used a very simple experimental model involving ligation of rabbit ileum. According to the Nobel Laureate Prof. Joshua Lederberg, the oral rehydration therapy (ORT), which is saving innumerable lives today by remedying the massive fluid loss in cholera patients, should be considered a direct outcome of Dr S.N. De’s discovery of cholera toxin.
  • His work led to rapid progress in cholera research, but he remained an unsung hero and did not enjoy deserving recognition from the contemporary scientists.

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