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Contraceptive from Neem, courtesy DRDO

India's premier defence organisation invents a Neem-based contraceptive!


Neem is again in news. The Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, an establishment under India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has announced that it has developed a contraceptive from Neem (Azadirachta indica).

Media reports said the pharmaceutical industry is keen to grab the drug, named 'ccncept', which is under the second phase of its clinical trials. The institute claims it has isolated a spermicidal compound fraction from neem oil that can kill a sperm and improve vaginal health. The drug is expected to be a cure for vaginal infections, caused by a wide range of pathogenic organisms. It would be highly cost-effective, since the Neem is found in plenty in the country. The neem tree has a drought-resistant quality and it can even grow in regions with an annual rainfall below 400 mm, but in such cases it depends largely on the ground water levels.

The neem has numerous medicinal properties, aiding conditions ranging from digestive disorders to diabetes and cholesterol, but its medicinal properties mentioned are not backed by scientific evidence but on traditional knowledge.

Neem had been embroiled in a row over patent rights also after the European Patent Office (EPO) granted a patent on an anti-fungal product, derived from neem, to the US Department of Agriculture and multinational WR Grace. India challenged the patent, pointing out that the process had been existing in India for more than 2000 years.

The EPO agreed to India’s contention, but the US multinational appealed again saying that prior existing knowledge was not published in a journal. In March 2005, the EPO freed Neem from patent rights, upholding India’s contention.

The DRDO has also reportedly developed some pheromones for dengue control. Dengue is an acute infectious tropical disease caused by arbovirus transmitted by mosquitoes, and characterized by high fever, rash, headache, and severe muscle and joint pain. In the late 1990s, Dengue was the most important mosquito-borne viral disease affecting humans after malaria, with around 40 million cases of dengue fever and several hundred thousand cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever reported each year.

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