"A newborn is at a high risk of eye infections during the first month of his or her life, and it is a serious concern as any major infections during the neonatal stage (initial 3-4 weeks of a newborn) can lead to troubled eyesight for life," said Dr. Nikita Thakur, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biotechnology, Shoolini University.

A comparative study on ‘conjunctivitis in the newborn' published in 2011 stated that the prevalence of neonatal conjunctivitis in India ranges from 0.5 per cent to 33 per cent and varies in the world from 0.9 per cent to 21 per cent depending on the socioeconomic status.

Neonatal eye infections have become less common these days owing to the use of various antibiotics and antifungal eye drops and ointments used after birth as a preventive measure. Neomycin and tobramycin are often the recommended eye drops for the neonatal and have antibacterial/ antifungal properties respectively. Since there is no formulation for neonatal having both antibacterial and antifungal properties the two eye drops have to be administered separately, after five minutes.

A team of researchers at Shoolini University has come up with an idea to make one perfect eye drop for the neonatal having both antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Although Itone can be used as an herbal substitute for neomycin, there are no herbal compositions for antifungal eye drops for neonatal. Thus, Shoolini researchers have planned to use 80 per cent herbal and 20 per cent chemical composition in their formulations to minimise chemical side-effects. They are also working on finding herbs having antifungal properties that can be used in eye ointments.

A provisional patent entitled ‘broadspectrum polyherbal formulation for the treatment of neonatal eye infections’ was co-filed by Dr. Nitika Thakur and her students Jyoti Kumar and Monu Sharma in December last year. She has completed her PhD and M.Sc. in Microbiology from Shoolini University and Himachal Pradesh University respectively. Jyoti Kumar and Monu Sharma completed their B.Sc. in Microbiology from Shoolini University in 2018.

The reason behind choosing the age group of neonatal as per Dr. Nitika Thakur was a huge scope under this unexplored group. While a lot of work has already been done on the elderly, middle-aged and pregnant women.