Mumbai’s Group of Tuberculosis Hospitals, Sewri, is planning to cultivate spirulina — a blue-green algae — in its premises as a health supplement for its patients.
Spirulina, a unicellular organism, which is a source of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins, is considered a super food. The Sewri hospital, one of the biggest tuberculosis treatment facilities in Asia, with a thousand patients admitted at any time, plans to create ponds in its large campus to grow and harvest the algae. There are no details on the size of the ponds, the quantity of algae that will be grown and how the harvest will be processed for consumption.
Undernutrition is an established risk factor for progression of latent TB infection into active TB. Lack of adequate nutrition is also considered to be a serious co-morbidity in patients with active TB in India, and increases the risk of severe disease, death, drug toxicity, drug malabsorption and relapse after cure.
Dr Lalit Anande, chief medical officer, Group of Tuberculosis Hospitals at Sewri, said that TB patients are currently given milk, bananas and eggs along with their usual meal to address their nutritional needs. “Due to the condition, the patient’s food intake decreases and thus their protein intake is affected. I was searching for something that is rich in protein and nutritional needs and will be easy to consume. While searching, I came across spirulina,” said Anande.
A single tablespoon of dry spirulina powder, weighing seven grams, contains four grams protein, 11% vitamin B1, 15% vitamin B2, 4% Vitamin B3, 21% copper and 11% iron. Spirulina’s reputation as superfood or space food is connected to the fact that a small amount of it is sufficient for daily nutritional need of an individual.
Dr Anande added that they have received permission from BMC to build a big pond in the garden of the hospital where the algae will be cultivated. “We even checked it online but a pack of 100 grams costs anywhere between ₹350-₹500. Thus, we have decided to cultivate it with the help of a trained botanist,” he said.