Answers to some questions

  1. What is meant by the “arsenic catastrophe”?
  2. What is Arsenicosis?
  3. What are the symptoms of arsenicosis?
  4. How does arsenic affect the human body?
  5. What must be done to do away with the arsenic catastrophe? 
  6. What can be done in short term to cure the arsenicosis patients?
  7. How can the SSF help?
  8. How does the medicine work?
  9. What is immune defence?
  10. What are antigens?
  11. What is an antioxidant?
  12. What is a base clinic with satellites?
  13. How do the clinics work?
  14. How much resources are needed?
  15. Why does the Swedish Sustainability Foundation support this program?
  16. What is Viola Vitalis?
  17. Who is Abdul Kader?

What is meant by thearsenic catastrophe”?
Bangladesh is grappling with the largest mass poisoning in history. At least 77 million people of the country's total population of 140 million are at risk of exposure to arsenic in their drinking water. Arsenic contamination of ground water has been found in many other countries as well, including Argentina, Chile, China, India, Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States. (The book Meharg, A, Venomous Earth- how arsenic caused the world’s worst mass poisoning, Macmillan, 2005, does a good job for presenting the scope of the catastrophe in Bangladesh).

What is Arsenicosis?
Arsenicosis is the medical word for arsenic poisoning. Arsenicosis contributes to adverse health effects by inhibition of essential enzymes, ultimately leading to death from multi-system organ failure.

What are the symptoms of arsenicosis?
Drinking of arsenic contaminated water may lead to skin cancers, cancer of the bladder, kidney, and lung, and diseases of the blood vessels of the legs and feet. It possibly also contributes to diabetes, high blood pressure and reproductive disorders. 

How does arsenic affect the human body?
Arsenic in drinking water is absorbed by the intestines from where the bloodstream takes it to various organs. The level of accumulated arsenic can be known by investigating nail and hair samples. The human body normally gets rid of smaller amounts of arsenic through urine. If there are large amounts of arsenic, remaining arsenic accumulates inside the body. The mechanisms underlying the adverse health effects by arsenic are not completely known.

What must be done to do away with the arsenic catastrophe? 
To completely eradicate arsenic poisoning, there must be a long term plan to supply arsenic free water to all people as well as treatment for the people who are already affected.

Plans are made and resources are assembled by national and international organs to provide arsenic free water for all. In the mean time, the innovative system developed by Viola Vitalis will cure the already affected people.

What can be done in short term to cure the arsenicosis patients?
The short term need is medication for the affected people. They can be provided medicine which will cure their symptoms within 2- 3 months. If they continue drinking arsenic contaminated water, the cure will have to be repeated when the symptoms appear again.

How can SSF help?
Affected people must get access to medicine to get cured. SSF supports the manufacture of medicine and the expansion of base and satellite clinics.

How does the medicine work?
Arsenicure is an ointment that eradicates the external symptoms of the disease. Ars-detox are capsules that neutralize the accumulated arsenic inside the body. Patients should be treated with both for a period of 2 – 3 months.

What is immune defence?
The immune defence is the body’s assembled response to combat antigens which cause disease. There are acquired and innate immune defence to fight against the antigen. Acquired immune defence is achieved from mother and innate immune defence through vaccination.

What are antigens?
Any foreign particles that enter into the body and causes adverse effects are called antigens. Examples are poisonous minerals and harmful microorganisms.

What is an antioxidant?
A substance or formulation protecting the body from free radical damage, i.e. oxidation, to the cells. It is, for instance, oxidation that causes most of the visible signs of aging in the skin. Similar damage also occurs within the body.

What is a base clinic with satellites?
The intervention proposed does not rely on permanent infrastructural arrangements. Clinics and sub-clinics (satellites) are set up with local resources and disbanded when the intervention has reached a predetermined goal. This structure has worked well in Bangladesh and is an innovative improvement in distribution of health interventions.

How do the clinics work?
A centre is established and a doctor and an awareness (information) worker are hired.
Meetings are held in satellite locations with local people to establish the local need for intervention and a monitoring person at the satellite location is engaged. The doctor visits each satellite camp for two days once every two weeks. For each doctor at a central clinic there are five satellite camps. The cure will generally be accomplished in three months and the satellite camp is disbanded when all people in the area have been cured. Just as the satellites, the central clinic will be disbanded or moved once all patients in the area have been cured. Some severe cases may need additional treatment in which case they are taken care of by new clinics set up at other locations or by local practitioners who have received protocol and training from the clinic.

How much resources are needed?
A full centre with five satellites would cost approximately 7000 Euro/month and it will cure approximately 10 000 people per year. The cost for medicines for the cure of one patient will be approximately 30 Euro. The average cost per cured person is less than 40 Euro.

Why does the Swedish Sustainability Foundation support this program?
The purpose, as stated in the statutes, of the foundation is to support innovative science-based projects in the area of environmental ecology and health which are

  1. sustainable in the long term perspective in technical, medical, ethical and ecological terms,
  2. have long term economical soundness and
  3. further long term social development, equality and welfare.

The Foundation believes that engagement in this program is an extremely good value for money. The long term goal of Viola Vitalis is to help marginalized people to improve their health status. By active work in the field, Viola Vitalis has shown that its medication for arsenic poisoning is efficient. Viola Vitalis have also proved that their innovative concept of temporary satellite and base clinics is an extremely efficient vehicle for dissemination of awareness, treatment protocols and medication.

What is Viola Vitalis?
Viola Vitalis is a start-up company in Bangladesh which has developed the arsenic medication together with the US Company Allium Vitalis and now has established the first Clinic with Satellites to cure people from Arsenic poisoning.

Who is Abdul Kader?
Abdul Kader is the founder of Viola Vitalis. He holds an M Sc. in Microbiology, an MBA in marketing and a PhD from Karolinska Institute in Molecular Microbiology.
Dr. Kader started to work with arsenicosis patients’ right after his graduation from university. He has developed the medication together with other researchers and established the first base/satellites clinic to distribute such medication.