Bioethics in India: Proceedings of the International Bioethics Workshop in Madras: Biomanagement of Biogeoresources, 16-19 Jan. 1997, University of Madras; Editors: Jayapaul Azariah, Hilda Azariah, & Darryl R.J. Macer, Copyright Eubios Ethics Institute 1997.
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79. Health Ethics in School Environment: Towards Improved Accountability of Human Life

S. Gopinath, H. Azariah, N.S. Kavitha & K. Latha
Centre for Advanced Studies in Botany, University of Madras - Guindy campus, Chennai - 600 025


Abstract

To correlate health ethics, environmental ethics and fungal community in biosphere, soil samples from different schools and public parks in Madras City were collected for the isolation of keratinophilic fungi which are harmful to human. Schools located at Arakkonam were chosen for a case study. The isolated fungal communities were categorized into two. Among them, Dermatophytes & Chrysosporium species belonged to category-I, while the other fungal species were characterized as category-II. In school soil samples Dermatophytes and related fungi were represented by eight species and comprised of 32.8% of all the fungal isolates recovered. The other fungi recovered were represented by 17 species which belonged to 12 different genera. In public park soil samples, Dermatophytes and closely related species were represented by 7 species and comprised of 38.9%. Whereas, other fungi were represented by 15 species belonging to 12 different genera. In the case study at Arakkonam, out of six schools investigated, only in one school there was no incidence of dermatomycosis either among the boys or girls. In all the other schools the percentage of infected pupil varied from 2.9% to 13.9%. This study correlates the health and environmental ethics and fungal community so as to enhance the quality of human health among school going children.

Introduction

Environmental ethics is a subject of biophilosophy and it derives its directives from the general theory of ethics which deals with the moral dimensions of human life in relation to the various dimensions of human actions on nature.

Life is respected when it is left in a natural condition or in the natural system as much as possible. Ethical issues are associated with humans and particularly with medical science and technology. Ethics associated with the care of living organisms with regard to the place of all species in the environment and the fact that each organism impacts on many others. It's aim is to approach animals, including humans, and plants, with the advancement and results of science, then promote human happiness and protect the environment. It considers current problems which are related with the activities of human life, study of manipulating nature to human advantage.

Currently, one of the important problems is the environmental quality of children's playgrounds and parks, as they represent a favourite environment for children to play. In addition, relaxation is one of the common action and requirement of human beings. Public parks and school play grounds form a favourable environment for relaxation. Surprisingly, the soil is the source of infection for many diseases which affect the health of man and animals. Since school and park represent a favourable environment for the children to play which are also favourable sites for the occurrence of a wide variety of fungi, they are, therefore, expected to play an important role in the epidemiology of human mycosis.

Most of the etiological agents of dermatomycosis were keratinophilic fungi which were either of zoophilic or geophilic origin (Mercantini et al 1978). Further, there is a relationship between dermatomycosis and the conditions of human environment. More than 80% of the patients were children in the age of 6 to 14 (Alishtayeh & Arda 1986). Therefore, the present study was carried out to evaluate the risk of mycotic infection in school children.

Studies on soil borne keratinophilic fungi

The study area comprised of 30 Schools (Primary) and 15 public parks in and around Madras city, Tamil Nadu, South India. Soil samples were taken in the months September'91, January'92, March'92, May'92 and July'92. The percentage occurrence of individual fungal species was calculated as follows:

Total no. of the colonies of individual fungal species in five replicates X 100

Total no. of colonies of all the fungal species in five replicates

Distribution of keratinophilic fungi in soil of primary school in and around Madras city

Data on the distribution of keratinophilic fungi in soil of primary schools in Madras city is given in Table 1. A total of 485 colonies of keratinophilic fungi was isolated. They were grouped into two categories, Category - I Dermatophytes and closely related species (Microsporum, Trichophyton and Chrysosporium) and Category - II other fungi. A total number of 25 species of keratinophilic fungi belonging to 15 genera were isolated. Dermatophytes and related fungi were represented by 8 species. The other fungi recovered were represented by 17 species which belonged to 12 different genera.

Regarding the percentage distribution of keratinophilic fungi, the dermatophytes and related species, comprised of 32.8%. Dermatophytes constituted 10.9% of the colonies; Chrysosporium species were comprised of 21.9% and the other fungi comprised of 67.2% of the colonies.

Distribution of keratinophilic fungi in soil of public parks in and around Madras city

To study the distribution of keratinophilic fungi in the soil of public parks in Madras city, soil samples were collected from 15 public parks, (maintained by the Corporation of Madras) between September 1991 and July 1992 (6 samples) at regular intervals and analyzed for the presence of keratinophilic fungi. Data on the distribution and percentage occurrence of keratinophilic fungi are given in Table 2. A total number of 340 colonies of keratinophilic fungi were isolated and grouped into two categories.

Category: I Dermatophytes and closely related species were represented by 7 species.

Category II: Other fungi were represented by 15 species belonging to 12 different genera.

Regarding the percentage occurrence of keratinophilic fungi, dermatophytes and related species comprised of 38.9% (dermatophytes - 13.6% and Chrysosporium species - 25.3%).

Hygiene and incidence of dermatocycosis from different schools in Arakkonam - case study

The pattern of incidence of dermatomycosis among the boys and girls from different schools in Arakkonam is given in Table 3. It may be seen that, out of the six schools investigated, only in one school there was no incidence of dermatomycosis either among the boys or girls. It is possible that the hygienic condition of the school environment is of a high order. In all the other schools the percentage of infected pupil varied from 2.9% to 13.9%.

Table 1: Distribution of keratinophilic fungi in soil - Schools

Table 2: Distribution of keratinophilic fungi in soil - Public Park

Isolated species Parks Total %

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 Colonies

I. Dermatophytes & closely related species

1 M. gypseum - - 2 3 2 3 5 - - - 4 - 2 23 6.8

2.T. mentagrophytes - - - - - 2 1 3 - - - - 2 - - 8 2.4

3. T. terrestre 2 - - 2 1 - - 4 - - 2 1 2 1 - 15 4.4

4. C. keratinophilum - 3 - 3 4 - 3 6 3 - - 3 2 - 2 29 8.5

5. C. pannorum - - 2 - - 2 - - 1 2 1 - - 2 3 13 3.8

6. Chrysosporium sp. - 2 - - - - - 2 - - - - 2 - - 6 1.8

7. C. tropicum 4 3 - 2 3 4 - 8 2 - 2 - 6 - 4 311.2

Total spp./school 3 3 1 4 4 4 3 6 3 1 3 2 6 2 4

Total isolates/school 8 8 2 9 11 10 7 28 6 2 5 4 18 3 11 132 30.0

II. Other species

8. A. flavus - - 2 - 4 - 2 6 - - 2 - 4 - 3 23 6.8

9. C. curtipes - 2 - 1 - - 2 - 2 - - - 1 - 1 9 2.6

10. C. subterraneum 1 2 1 - - - - 2 - - - - 2 - 1 9 2.6

11. C. cladosporioides 3 - 2 - - 2 - 2 - - - - - - - 9 2.6

12. C. verticillata 2 - 1 - - 3 - 2 - 6 - 4 8 - - 26 7.6

13. D. sativum - - 2 - - - 2 - - 1 - - - - - 5 1.5

14. F. oxysporum 4 6 2 - 4 - - 4 2 - 2 - 4 - 4 32 9.4

15. F. solani - 2 - 1 - - 3 - 2 - - - - - 2 10 2.9

16. P. chrysogenum - 2 - 1 2 - - 2 - - - - 2 - - 9 2.6

17. P. citrinum 2 3 4 - - 2 - - - - - - - 2 - 13 3.8

18. P. thomii - - - - 3 - 2 3 - - 1 - - - - 9 2.6

19. R. stolonifer 2 2 2 - 4 - - - - - - 2 3 - - 15 4.4

20. S. racemosum - - - 2 - - - - - 2 - - - 2 - 6 1.8

21. T.viride - 2 - 3 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 2 - - - 16 4.7

22. V. luteoalbum 2 - 3 - - - - 4 - - 3 - 3- - 2 17 5.0

Total spp./school 7 8 9 5 5 4 5 9 3 4 4 3 8 2 6 208

Total isolates/school 16 21 19 8 17 11 11 28 6 11 8 8 27 4 13 340 61.0

Table 3 :Total number and % of children infected by dermatophytes in the Primary Schools: A case study at Arakkonam

Girls Boys Total % of

School infected

number Total No. % Total No. % Children

No. infected infected No. infected infected

1 165 13 7.8 156 17 11.0 9.5

2 54 24 15.6 149 18 12.0 13.9

3 108 0 0 113 0 0 0

4 175 4 2.4 171 6 3.5 2.9

5 192 14 7.3 189 12 6.4 6.8

6 185 12 6.5 187 9 4.8 5.6

The present study points to the fact that more the number of dermatophytic fungi, higher is the incidence of infection. However, the percentage of infection between boys and girls did not vary much. They were affected equally in all the schools.

These results point out that the infection among school children is a function of the number of dermatophytic species as well as the intensity of their colonization. It is in the playground the school children often come in contact with the soil contagion and get infected.

Conclusion

It is evident from the present study that the environment in elementary school playground and public parks has a health risk and is not an ideal environment for the children to play. These playgrounds were initially covered with sand. However, as there was no periodic replacement of sand or cleaning of the sand, the playground soil becomes dirty. The visiting stray cattle and dogs leave their faeces and the presence of other organic residue which may form suitable substrates for the growth of dermatophytes may probably explain the relatively high occurrence of pathogenic colonies.

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Prof. A. Mahadevan, Director, Center for advanced Studies in Botany, University of Madras, Madras for his encouragement. The financial support by the UGC & DOEn are greatly acknowledged.

References
Ali-Shtayeh, M.A. & Arda, H.M. 1986. A study of Tinea capitis in Jordan (West Bank). J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 89: 137-141.
Azariah, J., Hilda, A & Macer, DRJ. 1994. Bioethical reasoning in India. pp. in DRJ Macer, Bioethics for the People by the People, Eubios Ethics Institute.
Macer, DRJ. et al. (Ed.) Bioethics in High Schools in Australia, Japan & New Zealand, Eubios Ethics Institute, 1996.
Mercantini, R., Marsella, R. & Caprilli, R. 1978. Isolation of Keratomyces from the soil of wild animal cages and enclosures in the Zoo of Parco Nazionale'd Abruzo, Italy. Sabouraudia 16: 285-290.


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