No announcement yet.

Govt sets up more labs to test human samples for bird flu

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Govt sets up more labs to test human samples for bird flu

    Govt sets up more labs to test human samples for bird flu
    31 Mar 2009

    NEW DELHI: Precariously positioned between countries that have reported H5N1 bird flu virus infection in humans, India is now on a major drive to
    step up its diagnostic capabilities for detection of human infection with Avian Influenza.

    While India had only one Bio Safety Level-III lab to test human samples for bird flu in National Institute of Virology (Pune) during the country's first H5N1 outbreak in February 2006 among poultry, at present it has in place three other BSL-III labs, each of which is capable of testing over 30 human samples a day.

    Brought from Hong Kong and each costing over Rs 2 crore, the three new labs are at National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (Kolkata), National Institute of Communicable Diseases (Delhi) and Regional Medical Research Centre (Dibrugarh).

    Two more BSL-III labs are also coming up at Central Research Institute (Kasauli) and Haffkine Institute (Mumbai) under the country's Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme. They are expected to become fully functional in the next three months.

    A health ministry official told TOI that NIMHANS Bangalore is also being roped in to house a BSL-III lab for human sample testing.

    The official said, "Besides these, nine Avian Influenza labs to conduct preliminary tests on human samples are also being set up, equipment of most of which has already arrived. But these labs will not be of BSL-III standard."

    "India has not recorded a single case of bird flu in humans. But we have to be extra careful. We have the virus presently infecting poultry in India. On the other hand, India's neighbours have reported human cases," the official said.

    According to scientists, India faces a serious threat of bird flu infection among humans. Over 350 species of birds migrate to the 170 wetlands in the country every year. At present, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and Pakistan have jointly recorded 43 human cases of H5N1 and 26 deaths.

    Since 2003, globally, there has been 412 human cases of bird flu, including 256 deaths. Scientists say the H5N1 strain has pandemic potential and is behaving like the strain that caused the 1918 Spanish Flu that is believed to have killed as many as 25 million in its first 25 weeks. Some estimates say 50-100 million people worldwide were killed of which 7 million were from India.

    "The risk of pandemic influenza is serious. With the H5N1 virus now firmly entrenched in large parts of Asia, the risk that more human cases will occur will persist," Unicef experts said.

    WHO scientists added, "Each additional human case gives the virus an opportunity to improve its transmissibility in humans, and thus develop into a pandemic strain. While neither the timing nor the severity of the next pandemic can be predicted, the probability that a pandemic will occur has increased."

    India at present has a stock pile of 900,000 doses of Tamiflu - the only known drug that combats a bird flu infection in humans.

    India at present already has bird flu in poultry in West Bengal, Assam and Sikkim. "We have culled 4.5 million birds with total losses of Rs 250 million. We face a serious threat from Bangladesh where 47 of the 64 districts are reporting repeated outbreaks. What's worse, we share a 1,700-km porous border with Bangladesh," said West Bengal's animal resource development secretary Dilip Chakroborty.