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News on Health & Science

Octopus Venom as Medicine

Octopus venom can treat allergies, cancer

An understanding of the structure and mode of action of venom found in all octopuses, cuttlefish and some squid can help design drugs for  conditions like pain management, allergies and cancer.

“Venoms are toxic proteins with specialised functions such as paralysing the nervous system,” Bryan Fry, biochemist from the University of Melbourne, said.

While many creatures have been examined as a basis for drug development, cephalopods (octopuses, cuttlefish and squid) which are venomous- going back to a common, ancient ancestor- remain an untapped resource and their venom may represent a unique class of compounds.

Fry, who led the study, said that while the blue-ringed octopus species remain the only group that are dangerous to humans, other species have been quietly using their venom for predatory activities.

Fry obtained tissue samples from cephalopods ranging from Hong Kong, the Coral Sea, the Great Barrier Reef and Antarctica.

The team then analysed the genes for venom production from the different species and found that a venomous ancestor produced one set of venom proteins, but over time, additional proteins were added to the species’ chemical arsenal.

The origin of these genes also sheds light on the fundamentals of evolution, presenting a prime example of convergent evolution where species independently develop similar traits, said a Melbourne release.

The team will now work on understanding why very different types of venomous animals seem to consistently settle on the similar venom protein composition, and which physical or chemical properties make them predisposed to be useful as toxin.

These findings were published in the Journal of Molecular Evolution.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Herbs & Plants

Passionflower

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Botanical Name :Passiflora caerulea
Family: Passifloraceae
Genus: Passiflora
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malpighiales

Other Names: Apricot Vine, Corona de Cristo, Granadilla, Maypop, Passiflora, Passiflora incarnata, Passion Vine, Water Lemon

Bengali Name :Jhumko Lata
Parts Used: The above-ground parts (flowers, leaves, and stems) of the passionflower are used for medicinal purposes. (Plant – dried, collected after some of the berries have natured
Flower – dried)

Habitat:
The plant is indigenous to an area from the southeast U.S. to Argentina and Brazil.Southeast Asia…India, Bangladesh & Burma.

Description:Passion flower (Passiflora; syn. Disemma Labill.) is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants in the family Passifloraceae. They are mostly vines, with some being shrubs, and a few species being herbaceous. For information about the fruit of the passiflora plant, see passionfruit.

click to see the pictures..>…….(01)....(1).…....….(2)………..(3)..………………………………..

It has a long vine which grows for 30 feet in length and bears alternate, serrate leaves with finely toothed lobes. The flowers are white with purple centers developing in the leaf axils, blooming from May to July. The fruit is a smooth, yellow, ovate berry containing numerous seeds.

CHEMICAL COMPOSITION
Alkaloids……..Apigenin………Carbohydrates
Coumarins……..Flavonoids……………Fructose
Glucose……….Gum……………………..Harmaline
Harmalol……..Harman………………….Harmine
Maltol……….Plant alcohols…………..Orientin
Raffinose……Saponaretin………………Saponarin
Scopoletin…..Stigmasterol……………Sitosterol
Sterols……..Sucrose……………………..Umbelliferone
Vitexin

Medical and entheogenic uses
Passiflora incarnata leaves and roots have a long history of use among Native Americans in North America. Passiflora edulis and a few other species are used in Central and South America. The fresh or dried leaves are used to make an infusion, a tea that is used to treat insomnia, hysteria, and epilepsy, and is also valued for its painkilling properties. It has been found to contain beta-carboline harmala alkaloids which are MAOIs with anti-depressant properties. The flower has only traces of these chemicals, but the leaves and the roots of some species contain more and have been used to enhance the effects of mind-altering drugs. Once dried, the leaves can also be smoked.

Anti-anxiety:
Passion flower has a tranquilizing effect, including mild sedative and anti-anxiety effects. In studies conducted since the 1930’s, its mode of action has been found to be different than that of most sedative drugs (sleeping pills), thus making it a non-addictive herb to promote relaxation.

Insomnia:
The sedative effect of Passion flower has made it popular for treating a variety of ailments, including nervousness and insomnia. Research had indicated that passion flower has a complex activity on the central nervous system (CNS), which is responsible for its overall tranquilizing effects. Also, it apparently has an antispasmodic effect on smooth muscles within the body, including the digestive system, promoting digestion.

Oral passion flower products are most frequently used for their effects on the central nervous system (CNS). While not all of their effects are understood, certain chemicals in passion flower may act like a class of prescription drugs known as benzodiazepines. Drugs such as benzodiazepines and herbals such as passion flower increase levels of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages from nerve cells to other cells. In general, GABA decreases the activity of nerve cells in the brain, causing relaxation, possibly relieving anxiety, and potentially treating insomnia.

In addition, passion flower contains chemicals known as harmala alkaloids, which are thought to block an enzyme involved in depression. This enzyme, monoamine oxidase, breaks down other neurotransmitters–especially dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin–which affect mood stability. Blocking monoamine oxidase may increase the amounts of other neurotransmitters, which may improve mood. No large human studies have been performed to prove the effectiveness of passion flower for any CNS uses, however.

Although applying passion flower to the skin is not as common as taking it by mouth, topical forms may help to relieve minor skin conditions such as burns, cold sores, insect bites, razor burn, scrapes, and sunburn. Passion flower products also have been used to alleviate the itching and burning pain of hemorrhoids. Laboratory studies have shown that it possesses some possible mild anti-infective activity, so it may also help to prevent skin surface infections. Again, however, these uses have yet to be proven in human studies.

FOLKLORE
Passion flower has a mild sedative effect that encourages sleep. This property has been well-substantiated in numerous studies on animals and humans. Nervous symptoms and cramps that inhibit sleep are alleviated by ingestion of the herb, and leading quickly to restful uninterrupted and deep sleep. When Spanish explorers first encountered the Indians of Peru and Brazil, they found this plant used in native folk medicine as a sedative. They took it back to Spain, from whence it gradually spread throughout Europe. It was in Europe that the leaves of the plant first found use as a sedative and sleep-inducing substance. Interestingly, its sedative effect was not noted by American until lately.

Today, more than 400 species of passion flower are found throughout the world. The active constituents of passion flower can be broadly classified as alkaloids and flavonoids, supported in their actions by a variety of other constituents, including amino acids, sugars, coumarins, and alcohols (actually sterols).

A decoction of passion flower has been successfully used in bronchial asthma. It has been used in Europe and America as a topical treatment for burns; compresses of the herb have a marked effect on inflammations.

The leaves of Passiflora edulis are used in South America as a diuretic and for hemorrhoidal inflammations. In Brazil, Passiflora incarnata is used as an antispasmodic and sedative. In North America, passion flower is often used as an analgesic and anticonvulsant, with some success noticed in cases of tetanus. In Italy, a combination of passion flower, belladonna, and lobelia is used to treat asthma. In Poland, a proprietary drug for treating excitability, contains an extract of passion flower.

Numerous homeopathic drugs contain passion flower; it is possible that the main sedative activity of the plant is truly homeopathic in nature, being in that respect a function of the harman alkaloid constituents otherwise stimulant in nature.

Passion flower has been commonly used in the treatment of nervous, high-strung, easily excited children; cardiovascular neuroses; bronchial asthma; coronary illness; circulation weakness; insomnia; problems experienced during menopause; concentration problems in school children; and in geriatrics. There is some experimental support for these applications.

Passion flower appears completely nontoxic, and has been approved for food use by the FDA.

Properties and Uses
Passion flower has related analgesic, sedative, sleep-inducing, and spasmolytic effects.
The major pharmacological effect of passion flower, first observed nearly a hundred years ago and consistently reported ever since, is a sedative property. The analgesic property of this herb was also observed, and doctors had success treating the sleeplessness experienced by neurasthenic and hysteric patients, as well as that caused by nervous exhaustion. Early investigators noticed that the herb worked best when sleeplessness could be traced to an inflammation of the brain; passion flower appeared to act as an analgesic and was free from side effects. Later in this century, investigators discovered that the flavonoid fraction was more effective. However, other tests showed that the most effective sedative activity was obtained from a combination of both the flavonoids and the alkaloids.

Early research indicated that an extract of passion flower was effective against the disturbance of menopause, and as agent against the sleeplessness that occurred during convalescence from the flu. The herb had no side effects, and appeared to induce a normal peaceful sleep. Observations on the day following administration revealed no depression of body or mind, in contrast to the morning-after effects usually experienced with narcotic drugs.

Passion flower is one of the main constituents of a German sleeping pill called Vita-Dor. This product, also containing aprobarbital, valerian root, hops, mellissa, and thiamine, is highly effective in inducing and maintaining sleep throughout the night. A recent Romanian patent was issued for a sedative chewing gum that contains passion flower extract in a base of several vitamins. Many other examples of the widespread application of passion flower in Europe could be cited; however, American recognition of the sedative effects of passion flower has lagged seriously behind.

Some of passion flower’s main constituents are the harmine and harman alkaloids (passiflorine, aribine, loturine, yageine, etc.). In man small doses (about 3-6 mg) stimulate the central nervous system, much like coffee and tea (black). In larger doses (15-35 mg), these alkaloids produce a strong motoric restlessness followed by drowsiness. Still larger doses intensify the motoric activity and cause hallucinations, convulsions, and vomiting. Oral doses of 300-400 mg will produce marked psychotic symptoms, replete with hallucinations, followed by pronounced central nervous system depression. Hence, passion flower is sometimes used as a mild hallucinogen. Since large doses of pure harman alkaloids are needed to produce psychoactive symptoms of any merit, use of the whole plant probably has no such observable effect.

Pharmacological investigations in animals indicate that relatively large doses of harman derivatives excite the central nervous system, producing hallucinations and convulsions that appear to be of extrapyramidal origin. These effects do not agree with the properties of the whole plant. Harman alkaloids arrest spasms in smooth muscle, lower the blood pressure, and expand the coronary vessels, effects which have also been observed in whole herb extracts and appear occasionally in the folk literature. A centrally-depressive chemical, a gamma-pyrone derivative called maltol, has been isolated from passion flower and shown to have mild sedative properties in mice; maltol could offset the stimulant properties of harman alkaloids, but it is unlikely that it account for all sedative effects observed in humans.

Presently, the active principle in passion flower remains unknown. It has been verified that the herb’s alkaloid fraction is sedative, the flavonoid fraction (also containing some harman) is active, and a combination of the two is most active.

DRUG INTERACTIONS
Possible Interactions
Passion flower should be used with caution in conjunction with CNS-depressants or stimulants.
Specifically, this herb should not be used at all in conjunction with the potent CNS-depressant analgesic, methotrimeprazine.

Toxicity Levels
No toxicity of passion flower has been noted, although harman alkaloids have demonstrated toxic effects (as discussed in the Method of Action section).

Safety:
There are no reported side effects for passion flower and the suggested dosages. However, it is not recommended for use in pregnant women or children under the age of two. If already taking a sedative or tranquilizer, consult a health care professional before using passion flower.

You may click to learn more

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.passionflower.org/
http://www.drugdigest.org/DD/DVH/HerbsWho/0,3923,4101%7CPassion%2BFlower,00.html
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/passionflower-000267.htm
http://www.springboard4health.com/notebook/herbs_passion_flower.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passiflora

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Featured News on Health & Science

Oily Fish ‘Cuts Eye Disease Risk’

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Eating food rich in omega-3, such as oily fish, could help some people avoid one of the most common causes of vision loss, a research review suggests.

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AMD causes a progressive loss of sight

The Annals of Ophthalmology review suggests omega-3 may cut the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by a third.

However, the Australian researchers stop short of encouraging everyone to eat more omega-3 for this reason alone.

An estimated 500,000 people in the UK suffer from AMD in some form.

“Prevention of this condition remains a major public health concern”….Spokesman, RNIB

it is a progressive and irreversible condition caused by thinning and bleeding around the macula – the central portion of the retina.

People with AMD, mostly over the age of 60, lose the ability to see fine detail, and, in severe cases, can choose to become registered blind, even though they still have some peripheral vision left.

Studies have already linked omega-3 fatty acids with a variety of health benefits, the most significant being suggestions that it can help people with heart disease.

The University of Melbourne study added up the results of nine previous studies on omega-3 and AMD, a total of 88,974 participants, including more than 3,000 with AMD.

 

Doing this gives the results more statistical strength – making it less likely than in the original nine studies that the findings are simply due to chance or some other confounding factor.

Eating fish twice a week was linked to a reduced risk of AMD, and a 38% reduction in risk was found when those eating the most omega-3 were compared with those eating the least.

‘Raise awareness’

Dr Elaine Chong, who led the research, said that omega-3 fatty acids were a vital component of the retina, and it was possible that a shortage of the chemical could “initiate” the disease as retinal cells were constantly shed and renewed.

However, she was cautious about recommending a change in diet, as little of the research analysed was set up to provide solid evidence.

“Although this meta-analysis suggests that consumption of fish and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with a lower risk of AMD, there is insufficient evidence from the current literature, with few prospective studies and no randomised clinical trials, to support their routine consumption for AMD prevention.”

A spokesman for the vision charity RNIB said that, given the high cost of treatment for one type of AMD, and the lack of treatment for the other, prevention was a “major public health concern”.

“The analysis of the existing evidence confirms that smoking is the only proven avoidable risk factor for AMD.

“We would welcome randomised controlled trials on the role that omega-3 fatty acids and fish consumption may be able to play in preventing AMD.

“In the interim we would encourage the government to do more to raise awareness of the link between smoking and blindness.”

Sources: BBC NEWS: 10Th. June, ’08

Categories
Ailmemts & Remedies

Typhoid fever

Typhoid fever is an illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. Common worldwide, it is transmitted by ingestion of food or water contaminated with feces from an infected person. The bacteria then multiply in the blood stream of the infected person and are absorbed into the digestive tract and eliminated with the waste.

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Typhoid fever is also called enteric fever. It happens due to the involvement of the intestines and may become very serious if treatment is not provided to the patient at the right time. Typhoid fever has a tendency to relapse the patient. It is sometimes accompanied by hoarse cough and constipation or diarrhoea. Typhoid fever is mainly transmitted by ingestion of food or contaminated water from an infected person. Typhoid fever is still common in many developing countries like india, where it affects about 21.5 million persons each year.

Who gets typhoid fever?
Anyone can get typhoid fever if they drink water or eat food contaminated with the S. typhi bacteria. Travelers visiting developing countries are at greatest risk for getting typhoid fever. Typhoid fever is still common in the developing world, where it affects about 12.5 million persons each year. Only about 400 cases occur each year in the United States.

Symptoms:
Typhoid fever is usually recognized by the sudden onset of sustained fever.
During typhoid fever you may also suffer from severe headaches.
Nausea is an another symptom for typhoid fever.
Some times Stomach Pain is also accounted.
Sometimes the person also suffers from severe loss of appetite.
Typhoid fever accompanied by insomnia and feverishness, particularly at night.
In the beginning the temperature of the body is slightly high in morning, then it gradually becomes normal in the afternoon and then again rises in the evening. The temperature of sustained fever may go up to as high as 103° to 104° F (39° to 40° C ).
They may also feel weak, or have gastroenteritis, headache, diarrhea and anorexia (loss of appetite). In some cases, patients have a rash of flat, rose-colored spots.

Classically, untreated typhoid fever course is divided in 4 weeks. In the first week, there is a slowly rising temperature with relative bradycardia, malaise, headache and cough. Epistaxis is seen in a quarter of cases and abdominal pain is also possible. There is leukopenia with eosinopenia and relative lymphocytosis, a positive diazo reaction and blood cultures are positive for Salmonella typhi or paratyphi. The classic Widal test is negative in the first week.

In the second week of the infection, the patient lies prostrated with high fever in plateau around 40ºC and bradycardia (Sphygmo-thermic dissociation), classically with a dicrotic pulse wave. Delirium is frequent, frequently calm, but sometimes agitated and this delirium gave to typhoid the nickname of “nervous fever”. Rose spots appear in lower chest and abdomen in around 1/3 patients. There are rhonchi in lung bases. The abdomen is distended and painful in the right lower quadrant where borborygmi can be felt. Diarrhea can occur in this stage: six to eight stools in a day, green with a characteristic smell, comparable to pea-soup. Howewer, constipation is also frequent. The spleen and liver are enlarged and tender and there is elevation of transaminases . The widal reaction is strongly positive with antiO and antiH antibodies. Blood cultures are sometimes still positive in this stage. In the third week of the typhoid fever a number of complications can occur:

Intestinal haemorrhage due to bleeding in the congested Peyer patches; that can be very serious but generally does not lead to death.
Intestinal perforation in distal ileon: this is a very serious complication that is frequently fatal. It may occur without alarming symptoms until septicaemia or diffuse peritonitis sets in.
Toxic myocarditis with collapse
Encephalitis
Metastatic abscesses, cholecystitis, endocarditis and osteitis
The fever is still very high and oscillates very little around the day. Dehydration ensues and the patient is delirious (typhoid state). By the end of third week defervescence commences that prolongs itself in the fourth week.

The ways typhoid fever spreads:

Typhoid fever appears to have affected thousands of human beings from last so many years, but the cause of the illness is a poisonous and interruptive bacterium called Salmonella typhi . Typhoid fever mainly spreads when people eat food or drink water which is already been infected with Salmonella typhi. This bacteria lives only in humans. Persons with typhoid fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. Therefore, typhoid fever is more common in unhygienic areas of the world where hand washing is less frequent and water is likely to be contaminated with germs. It also spreads through direct contact with a person who is already infected with this disease.

A different pathogen, Salmonella paratyphi , causes paratyphoid fever. Although they’re related, these aren’t the same bacteria responsible for salmonellosis, another serious intestinal infection.

After treatment, some people who recover from typhoid fever, even then continue to harbor the bacteria in their intestinal tract or gallbladder, for some years. These people are called chronic carriers, usually shed the bacteria in their feces and are capable of infecting others, although they no longer have signs or symptoms of the disease themselves.

Diagnosis:
The only way to know for sure if an illness is typhoid fever is to have samples of stool or blood tested for the presence of S. Typhi.

Diagnosis is made by blood, bone marrow or stool cultures and with the Widal test (demonstration of salmonella antibodies against antigens O-somatic and H-flagellar). In epidemics and less wealthy countries, after excluding malaria, dysentery or pneumonia, a therapeutic trial with chloramphenicol is generally undertaken while awaiting the results of Widal test and blood cultures.

Treatment:
Typhoid fever in most cases is not fatal. However, in some cases it is. Antibiotics, such as ampicillin, chloramphenicol, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and ciprofloxacin, have been commonly used to treat typhoid fever in developed countries. Prompt treatment of the disease with antibiotics reduces the case-fatality rate to approximately 1%.

When untreated, typhoid fever persists for three weeks to a month. Death occurs in between 10% and 30% of untreated cases. Vaccines for typhoid fever are available and are advised for persons traveling in regions where the disease is common (especially Asia, Africa and Latin America). Typhim Vi is an intramuscular killed-bacteria vaccination and Vivotif is an oral live bacteria vaccination, both of which protect against typhoid fever. Neither vaccine is 100% effective against typhoid fever and neither protects against unrelated typhus.
Resistance:
Resistance to ampicillin, chloramphenicol, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and streptomycin is now common, and these agents have not been used as first line treatment now for almost 20 years. Typhoid that is resistant to these agents is known as multidrug-resistant typhoid (MDR typhoid).

Ciprofloxacin resistance is an increasing problem, especially in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Many centres are therefore moving away from using ciprofloxacin as first line for treating suspected typhoid originating in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand or Vietnam. For these patients, the recommended first line treatment is ceftriaxone.

There is a separate problem with laboratory testing for reduced susceptibility to ciprofloxacin: current recommendations are that isolates should be tested simultaneously against ciprofloxacin (CIP) and against nalidixic acid (NAL), and that isolates that are sensitive to both CIP and NAL should be reported as “sensitive to ciprofloxacin”, but that isolates testing sensitive to CIP but not to NAL should be reported as “reduced sensitivity to ciprofloxacin”. However, an analysis of 271 isolates showed that around 18% of isolates with a reduced susceptibility to ciprofloxacin (MIC 0.125–1.0 mg/l) would not be picked up by this method. It not certain how this problem can be solved, because most laboratories around the world (including the West) are dependent disc testing and cannot test for MICs.

Ayurvedic Treatment for Typhoid fever
Given below course you may follow for general treatment of typhoid fever, it depends on subjective or objective symptoms of the patient.

In first week: You may take 125 mg each of Muktashukti Bhasma and Mrigshringa Bhasma, at least three times daily which should be mixed with honey. A decoction of 12 gm of Khub Kalan and 10 gm of dried grapes with one litre of water, boiled down to about one-third, can be given along with the above medicines.

In second week: You may take a dose of Muktashukti Bhasma (10-12mg) & a dose of Kasturibhairava Rasa (120-125mg) with honey thrice daily. You may also take a mixture of Saubhagya Vati (240 mg) and Jwararyabhra (120 mg) three times in a day with juice of fresh ginger.

In third week: Mix 120 mg of Pravala Bhasma and 120 mg of Vasantmalati Ras with atleast 120 mg Amritsattva, to be taken with honey at least two times in a day. After at least three hours of serving the above medication give a dose of 240 mg of Powder of Pippali & also 240 mg of sarvajwaralauha with honey atleast two times in a day.

That is first, second & third, second should be taken alternatively.

In fourth week:You may take a mixture of Navayasa Choorna (Powder) – 2.5 mg & Vasantmalati Ras 125 mg & Sitopladi Choorna – 1.5 gm (Two Doses) to be taken with honey at least two times in a day. After meals, take a liquid compound prepared from- 10ml of Amritarishta & 5ml of Vishmushtayasava with 10ml of Lauhasava (one dose to be taken for each with equal quantity of water after lunch & dinner meals).

If whole body is massaged with oil, preferably Mahalakhshadi Tail daily, it will provide much desired relief to the patient and also help in quicker recovery. Some people suggest massage with olive oil or Johnson’s Body oil but, then, it is simply a matter of individual response and suitability, availability and choice.

Preventions:
Now vaccines for typhoid fever are also available, but these vaccines are not effective so much and are just partially effective and are usually reserved for people who may be exposed to the disease or are traveling to areas where typhoid fever is endemic. No vaccine has been discovered till date for paratyphoid fever.

It is always adviced to follow the Tips (Specially in Typhoid prune area)

Avoid foods and drinks that you may think may be contaminated. Also avoid eating things that have been kept in the open for long time.

Most important thing – Get vaccinated against typhoid fever.

Use careful selection of food and drink while you are in a developing country. This will also help protect you from other illnesses such as cholera, dysentery and hepatitis A.
Only use clean water. Buy it bottled or make sure it has been brought to a rolling boil for at least one minute before you drink it. Bottled carbonated water is safer than uncarbonated water.
Ask for drinks without ice unless the ice is made from bottled or boiled water.
Only eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked.
Avoid raw vegetables and fruits that cannot be peeled.
When you eat raw fruits or vegetables that can be peeled, wash your hands with soap, then peel them yourself. Do not eat the peelings.
Avoid foods and beverages from street vendors. Many travelers get sick from food bought from street vendors.
Remember:
Even if your symptoms go away without treatment, you may still be carrying the S. typhi bacteria, and your illness could return and be passed to other people.
If you work at a job where you handle food or care for small children, you should not go back to work until a doctor has determined that you no longer carry any S.typhi bacteria.
Even if you are vaccinated, you should carefully select your food and drink, especially when visiting areas where typhoid fever is common.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.

Help taken from :Ayurvedic-medicines.com , en.wikipedia.org and http://health.utah.gov/epi/fact_sheets/typhoid.html