Bhopal lab prepared to handle swine flu in livestock

May 11th, 2009 - 5:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, May 11 (IANS) Bhopal-based High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) is prepared to handle the swine flu pandemic in case it afflicts livestock, an official said Monday.
HSADL had developed an indigenous diagnostic reagent, group specific antigens, for testing the bird flu virus - perceived as a major scientific milestone.

“Just in case any such situation occurs, the laboratory has all the technological requirements for diagnosis of the disease,” Shivcharan Dubey, joint director of HSADL, told IANS adding that presently there is no threat of swine flu in India even in human beings, let alone livestock.

HSADL is the only Biosafety Level IV laboratory in the country dedicated to diagnosis and research on animal diseases.

Common belief is that the pandemic commonly called swine flu is caused by HIN1 strain. There have also been theories that the human infection is caused by combination of assorted viruses including the swine flu virus, bird flu virus and the human influenza virus. Later the WHO called it as the North American Human Influenza (NAI-II).

Dubey said that India is reported to be still free from even the human infection. The National Institute of Virology (NIV) at Pune is responsible for handling human cases if reported anytime, he said.

The role of HSADL (that works under the Indian Veterinary Research Institute of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research) would be diagnosis of the virus from samples of animal population only, especially pigs.

As a precautionary measure, HSADL has updated diagnostic preparedness for this infection, the joint director said.

Dubey also cautioned that since this newly emerged virus is still under study, its epidemiological pattern is not fully known. Its exact nature and gravity of threat it poses to human or animal population can be determined only after full investigation by reference laboratories.

He said that as compared to US, Mexico, Canada and European countries, India has a smaller pig population. Moreover the ongoing hot summer conditions in the country might be a natural deterrent for the virus to survive in the environment.

The joint director said that to his understanding, the NAHI/swine influenza viruses are equally sensitive to high temperature as other flu viruses like bird flu and human flu.

“However we are prepared for any emergency and HSADL has all the bio-safety and other technological requirements for diagnosis of the virus,” Dubey said.

HSADL is the only lab in the country equipped with facility to test suspected avian influenza (bird flu) samples. Previously, the laboratory had to import the entire cache of diagnostic reagents from countries like the US and Australia. The import was very costly and the scare of bird flu made the reagents a rare commodity. The HSADL breakthrough has not only solved the problem of availability but also saved money.

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