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Indian Scientist who Enthralls Public With Magic Tricks

Whether he is enthralling people with his magic tricks or debating on the latest advances in microbiology, Professor Gursharan Singh Chhatwal does both with ease //.

Chhatwal is considered a brilliant cook and a gifted magician. But the scientist from India has also gained renown for his work against the killer streptococci bacteria.

'It is no problem for me to cook even for 100 people,' says Chhatwal, who pursues magic as a hobby and is a cooking enthusiast.

But by profession, he is a trained microbiologist specialising in research on bacteria. Since 1988, he has been working with the Society for Biotechnological Research in the north German city of Braunschweig.

Streptococci are responsible for throat infections. But depending on what type of streptococcus is involved, the disease can have serious long-term effects. Particularly dangerous is a rheumatic heart ailment, which, if untreated, can lead to death.

'With better medical treatment, 500,000 children could be saved each year,' Chhatwal says. In India alone, an estimated six million schoolchildren suffer from the effects of a streptococcus infection.

'Out of 100 children with a sore throat, about five will get heart disease,' he says.

Chhatwal is currently developing a test that can help to identify early on which children are actually in danger. 'In order for the test to be applied, it must be simple, fast and cheap,' the microbiologist says.

In cooperation with Swedish and Scottish scientists as well as with three major hospitals in India, Chhatwal is preparing a study, to be carried out over three years and involving 300,000 Indian schoolchildren.

'The test is not dangerous and you don't need any equipment for it,' he says. A simple swab is all that will be needed to identify the pathogen.

Born Sep 22, 1949, in a merchant's family in Chandigarh, Chhatwal studied in Mumbai, Japan and Canada
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