PUNE: Scientists at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) here have confirmed that the Bangladesh strain of Nipah virus (NiV) is responsible for the current outbreak in Kerala. They reached the conclusion after decoding the full genome of the virus drawn from the throat swab sample of an infected patient, reports the Times of India.
The Nipah virus has two strains — Malaysia (NiVM) and Bangladesh (NiVB). Both the strains have high fatality rates, between 60% and 85%, the scientists said.
“Sequencing of the genetic make-up of the virus revealed that the Indian Nipah virus genome is genetically similar to the Bangladesh strain,” senior scientist and NIV-Pune director Devendra Mourya told TOI on Tuesday. Both the strains have more or less an equal mortality rate and are responsible for local outbreaks. “No study has so far proved that the Bangladesh strain is more lethal or pathogenic than the Malaysia strain,” Mourya said.
Nipah was first reported in Bangladesh’s Meherpur district as a cause of an outbreak of encephalitis in 2001. Since then, Nipah outbreaks have been reported almost every year in some districts of the neighbouring country.
“Studies in Bangladesh have revealed that consumption of palm sap infected with bat urine and saliva was mostly responsible for the transmission of the infection from bats to humans and then humans to humans as well,” NIV scientist Pragya Yadav said.
Thirteen people have died of Nipah in Kerala since the outbreak of the virus earlier this month. A suspected case of Nipha infection has been identified in Goa and the patient has been quarantined at the GMC.
A soldier died on Monday in Kolkata of the suspected Nipah virus, which has caused 13 deaths in Kerala. With the death of the soldier, the death toll nationwide has risen to 14 as of Wednesday evening.
The soldier, Seenu Prasad, was from Kerala and was posted at Fort William. He was admitted to hospital on 20 May, seven days after his return from a month’s holiday in Kerala.
A central team comprising experts from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the NIV has visited the Government Medical College in Kozhikode to understand gaps in the hospital’s infection control measures and medical management. “Our specialized team is working with the central team on the field and also at the hospital to contain the outbreak. They are also working in and around houses of people diagnosed with the infection in the beginning to find the possible links of infection,” Mourya said.
The samples of bats found in the well of a house in Perambra, considered the epicentre of the outbreak in Kerala, tested negative for the virus at the designated laboratory in Bhopal. “The bats whose samples were tested at the Bhopal lab were not fruit bats (Pteropus giganteus). This particular species is the only known reservoir for the virus to date,” Mourya said.