January 30, 2021 5:52:02 am
In September last year, Dr Ritesh Agarwal, Professor at PGIMER’s Department of Pulmonary Medicine, won the distinguished Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology in the medical sciences category, the first faculty from PGIMER to be given this honour.
Adding another feather in his hat, Dr Agarwal has been given the distinct honour of ICMR Chaturvedi Ghanshyam Dass Jaigopal Memorial Award (Immunology) 2019 for his significant contributions in the field of immunology. “These two awards in this Covid year are the only silver lining in these tough and trying times. It is a good feeling,” says Dr Agarwal.
Dr Agarwal joined the residency program in Internal Medicine at PGIMER in 1998 and completed his fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. His primary research area is Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA) and he has a keen interest in interventional pulmonology and meta-analysis.
“We have been working in this area since 2004. The disease is caused by a fungus which is universally present, and when the patients inhale this, they think their asthma is getting worse. The injury caused by ADPA is far more serious than caused by asthma and can cause holes in the lungs and permanent lung damage,” says Dr Agarwal, who has proposed new criteria for the diagnosis and classification of ABPA, which are used to diagnose the disease the world over.
The most significant work of Dr Agarwal is in the treatment of ABPA, as he says that during the clinical work, they would often wonder why the condition is not being helped through medicines and our work as a team was probing this aspect. Before his research, there was no dosing protocol for oral glucocorticoids and his research showed that lower doses of oral steroids were sufficient in the treatment of ABPA. Moreover, two of his studies demonstrating the efficacy of antifungal drugs turned out to be practice-changing, as patients are now be spared of serious adverse effects of glucocorticoids.
Speaking about the effect of Covid-19 on lung diseases, Dr Agarwal says that the major challenge is to take care of patients with ABPA, for if they develop Covid-19, they would develop more complications. “Asthma is on the rise, but we can not say it is because of pollution, the air, smoke and bad air aggravates it, of course. Covid-19 also affects asthma, but if controlled, it is not dangerous. Precautions such as social distancing, wearing masks and less social interactions help the patients.”
On his achievements, Dr Agarwal says, “You are as good as your team, and this work is all a team effort. You have to dream, and work towards achieving the dream. Work has to be systematic, focused and disciplined. A healthy body and mind is important, and I urge everyone to be physically and mentally fit.”
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