Indians determined to combat the H1N1 flu.
India is gearing up to be a major contributor towards preventing the spread of deadly H1N1 flu. Serum Institute of India, Ocimum Biosolutions and Dr. Suresh Mittal, a researcher in Purdue University, have all taken up initiatives to fight this fast-spreading flu. The World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that if the current outbreak turns into a pandemic, up to two billion people around the world could be infected by this virus.
Commenting on the current progress made in the project, Jadhav said, "We will be getting the samples in another three weeks and if the testing goes as per plan, we can have the vaccine by 4-5 months." According to Jadhav, there were originally eight scientists working on the project, but now another five scientists may be added. "Our objective is to develop around 100 million doses", adds Jadhav.
The Ocimum Biosolutions is another Indian company that has launched a microarray based test, to detect the H1N1 virus. The test will be conducted on the updated version of the custom made OciChip platform that was used during the avian flu outbreak, three years ago.
The test will be conducted with the sequence information available from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). "We have still not received any samples from the affected countries", said Anuradha Acharya, CEO, Ocimum Biosolutions. According to Acharya, the test will be validated in an Indian lab in the next two weeks before it is available.
In addition, to the microarray based test, the Hyderabad-based company has said that it can also provide a Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) based molecular diagnostic test also. "Both these tests can be conducted in a few hours and avoids the risk of patients with suspected cases infecting others when the wait is longer", adds Acharya.
Joining this league of companies is Mittal, a professor of comparative pathobiology in the School of Veterinary Medicine in Purdue. He has already received gene samples of the H1N1 virus and has started working on it, in his laboratory. Within a month, Mittal hopes to develop a vaccine ready for testing. He would be using the same approach that he had developed for the H5N1 bird flu virus during its outbreak.
According to a recent report by UN health agency, the number of confirmed cases of H1N1 infections stands at 4,379 in 29 countries, with a death toll of 49. India with its one billion people cannot be immune to such a threat without being vigilant. Both Jadhav and Acharya believe that India can prevent an outbreak, if there is rapid screening at airports and having the necessary stockpiles of anti-virals.
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