MAHE’S Manipal Centre for Virus Research (MCVR) at the Forefront to Contain the NIPAH Virus
Bangalore, 25 May, 2018: Kozhikode in Kerala went on high alert followed by Tamil Nadu and parts of Karnataka after a deadly virus called 'Nipah' (NiV) claimed eleven lives in Kerala. The fast-spreading virus Nipah has a mortality rate of 40-70 per cent.
What is the Nipah Virus?
Nipah virus infection is newly emerging and is an example ofa zoonotic disease, where animal diseases can be transmitted to people.According to the WHO, the natural host of the virus is fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus (fruit-eatingspecies) and the virus is transmitted through direct contact with infectedbats, pigs, or from other NiV-infected people.
It was first identified in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in1998 which involved pigs asthe intermediate hosts during that outbreak. In India, the first outbreak wasreported in 2001 in Siliguri,West Bengal followed by a second incident in 2007 emerging in theNadia district of West Bengal. It was revealed by scientists that human oftencontracted the disease by drinking raw date palm sap tapped directly fromtrees, a sweet treat that fruit bats also enjoy.
WHO reports that between 1998-2008, the virus has claimed over 300 livesacross Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh and India.
MAHE and Manipal Centre for Virus Research at theForefront to fight the Virus
The Manipal Centre for Virus Research (MCVR) lab was thefirst to identify the Nipah Virus in Kozhikode and the team is striving to workin Nipah-hit areas while communicatingand coordinating with the medical community and the State Government. Prone tobe a bio-threat, the early detection of the virus demonstrates the country’scapabilities for containing an epidemic. Championing this cause is Dr. GArunkumar who heads the MCVR and was instrumental in diagnosing the secondpatient with the Nipah virus fairly early. He believes the virus is highly infectiousand the ones at the greatest risk are the staffs treating the patient in theICU. He lists down basic steps to prevent the virus from spreading:
- Always check the fruitsyou are eating and clean them thoroughly before eating
- Wash your handsregularly with soap and water
- At hospitals,healthcare workers have need to take barrier precautions such as face mask,face shield, gloves and full personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Since the disease istransmitted through droplets infection and through body fluid contact,caregivers and hospital staff need to maintain distance from an infectedperson.
- Domestic animals canalso be the carriers of NiV as they can consume partially eaten fruits droppedby fruit bats. Try to keep pets and domestic animals indoors and feed themyourself.
- Don’t eat half eatenfruits from trees.
- Don’t visit placeswhere bats are known to colonise
- Don’t come in contactwith bat droppings. If it were to happen, immediately wash your hands with soapand water thoroughly
- Don’t climb trees wherebats ay have left their secretions
Diagnostic Tests and Prevention
The NiV is a risk group four pathogen and requires alaboratory with bio safety level 3 or level 4 to be able to handle testing.Currently along with the National Institute of Virology Pune, only ManipalCentre for Virus Research, Manipal Academy of High Education are equipped tocarry out testing such as Real Time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) samples ofthroat swab in transport medium such as blood sample, urine sample andcerebrospinal fluid.
The MCVR Lab is supported by the Indian Council of MedicalResearch, Department of Health Research, Ministry of Family Welfare. It is aGrade 1 virus research and diagnostic laboratory of ICMR, Government of India.
By Dr. G Arunkumar, Professor and Head of the Department,Manipal Centre for Virus Research