India has Only two Labs to Test Deadly Viruses
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21 January 2011
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
In Last 30 Years, 30 Viral Outbreaks Have Been Recorded
Believe it or not, India with its size has just two laboratories to test human samples infected with highly infectious viruses like the deadly Crimea Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) with a fatality rate of up to 90%.
While the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune is the only bio–safety level (BSL) IV lab to test human samples in India, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Delhi is a BSL–III lab.
A ministry note to the Planning Commission admits, "At present, there are only two labs well equipped to deal with all kinds of viruses." Now, faced with recent outbreaks of highly pathogenic viruses like Nipah (2001), SARS (2003), H5N1 (2006–09), Chandipura (2005), Chikungunya (2006), H1N1 (2009) and now CCHF (isolated for the first time in India in humans this month in Gujarat), the Union health ministry has finalized plans to establish a network of labs for diagnosing and managing dangerous pathogens. In India, over the past 30 years, 30 different outbreaks have been recorded of which 21 have been due to different viruses.
The plan is to have two national labs in the form of NCDC and NIV, six regional labs, 28 state labs and 200 district labs. Four new labs are already functional in Port Blair, Lucknow, Bhubaneswar and Manipal. Four more are likely to start functioning this year in Alappuzha, Jaipur, Chhattisgarh and Thirivanthapuram.
"We have already received an in–principle approval from the Planning Commission. Around 12 labs in this network already exist and belong to the Indian Council of Medical Research which are being upgraded. The bulk of the funding for these labs should be cleared in the next four months, all of which will cost Rs 740 crores," a ministry official said.
All these labs will have the capacity to conduct serology, have RTPCR facilities, isolate dangerous pathogens, conduct fluorescent microscopy, tissue culture and sequencing of the virus. The district labs will conduct Elisa based diagnosis, serology and fluorescent microscopy tests.
No fresh cases of Congo fever reported
New Delhi: No fresh cases of Congo fever have been reported from Sanand in Gujarat where three persons succumbed to the deadly disease even as a six–member central team began investigations into the outbreak.
Apart from the three deaths reported, two cases are being monitored, health ministry officials said. Surveillance activity began in the affected area. Around 33 teams deputed by the state government have carried out house to house visits in six villages and three hamlets near village Kolat in Sanand covering a population of more than 26,000 people.