20 October 2010
By Anuradha Mascarenhas
Scientists at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) here are now engaged in developing an indigenous vaccine to counter Japanese Encephalitis (JE) virus.
The NIV has developed a candidate vaccine against it and joined hands with Bharat Biotech to upgrade the product and test it on humans, said Dr A C Mishra, the Director of NIV.
"JE is a priority disease for the NIV and our local unit in Gorakhpur has had scientists engaged in the rapid diagnosis of the disease," Mishra told The Indian Express.
Dr M M Gore, in–charge of the Gorakhpur unit of NIV who was in Pune on Tuesday, said JE is a viral disease, which normally affects children below 15, and has no effective cure so far.
While the Union Health Ministry has planned a massive campaign in the next two months to administer the present Chinese vaccine to prevent JE, this is for the first time that the move to find an Indian solution has got the approval of the Drug Controller and General of India (DCGI).
"The Indian strain of the virus has been tested and the technology has been transferred to the pharma major. We have com pleted the animal toxicity studies and the DCGI has given the clearance for the first phase of the human clinical trial to develop a vaccine against JE," Mishra said. The first phase will test the safety and the immunogenicity of the vaccine, Mishra said, adding that NIV will provide the laboratory support to the project.
The virus is transmitted to humans through pigs and the disease is prevalent mainly in Uttar Pradesh, Northeast and southern states. AccordingtoGore,anotherdeadlydisease has been ravaging eastern UP andhasbeenidentifiedasAcuteEncephalitis Syndrome (AES). While locals refer the rising number of deaths and cases as `japani bukhar', the majority are caused due to AES.
"We had 500 cases at one hospital at BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur," said Gore.
The AES has taken a heavy toll in the state, with 125 deaths reportedly caused by the disease in the last one month alone. This year, the cases have already risen to 2,538, with 369 deaths according to the national vector borne disease control programme. Of the 369 deaths, 42 had tested positive for JE this year. Now the government has planned a mop up vaccination round in November and will target seven `high risk' districts of eastern UP, Gore said.