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As Cases Of Deadly Nipah Virus Rise, India Seeks Help From Australia

NEW DELHI:  In the wake of Nipah virus cases in Kerala, the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has written to the Queensland government in Australia asking it to provide an antibody developed there to test if it can “neutralise” the virus in humans.

The antibody has not been tested on humans so far.

“We have asked them to give their monoclonal antibody for conducting a test in India to find out if it can neutralise the Nipah virus in humans.

“In Australia, it has only been tried in vitro (happening outside the body in artificial conditions, often in a test tube) and has been found to be effective. But it has not been tested on humans,” said ICMR Director General, Dr Balram Bhargava, while clarifying that it will not lead to creation of vaccine.

ICMR is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.

“We are preparing a dossier on what will be methodology and what would be the regulatory process so that we can fast track the process,” he said.

According to Dr Bhargava, Australia is ready to share as it will help generate data on the efficacy of the antibody.

“It is not yet sure how much it will be effective,” he said, adding the infection caused by Nipah virus has a high mortality rate (50-70 pc).

According to National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, the drug ribavirin has been shown to be effective against the viruses in vitro, but human investigations to date have been inconclusive and the clinical usefulness of the drug remains uncertain.

The death count due to outbreak of Nipah virus rose to 12 in the southern state of Kerala, with one more person succumbing to the deadly virus in Kozhikode this morning, said a Health ministry official.

Meanwhile, there are reports of dead bats being found on the premises of a government school in Himachal Pradesh, samples of which have been sent for testing to NIV, Pune, to ascertain the reason behind their deaths.

According to the health ministry officials, of the 12 deaths in Kerala so far due to the virus, nine people died in Kozhikode district and three in Mallappuram. Besides, about 160 samples have been sent for testing at the virology institute.

While 18 people with specific symptoms are admitted at hospitals in Kozhikode, 22 patients with suspected Nipah cases, all from Malappuram district, are admitted at Kozhikode Medical College for observation.

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