Nipah mystery solved! ICMR scientists reveal carrier that caused deadly virus outbreak in Kerala

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New Delhi | Published: July 3, 2018 12:30:44 PM

The mystery over the Nipah virus outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram of Kerala that took 17 lives in May this year has finally been solved with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) identifying fruit bats as the source of the virus.

Representative Image (IE)

The mystery over the Nipah virus outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram of Kerala that took 17 lives in May this year has finally been solved with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) identifying fruit bats as the source of the virus. Epidemiologists tested the bats at Changaroth village of Perambra, Kozhikode when the virus broke out. However, the results came negative which left the scientists wondering about the source of the zoonotic virus, that infects humans usually through bats and pigs.

According to a report by Hindustan Times, the second round of testing of the bats delivered positive results. This contradiction is said to have occurred due to scientists testing the wrong species in May this year.

JP Nadda, Union health and family welfare minister said, “Scientists have found conclusive evidence of Nipah virus infection in the fruit bats found in the area.” He also added, “Timely and coordinated efforts of all stakeholders – health workers, state government, scientists, researchers and Central government — led to the timely and successful containment of Nipah virus cases in Kerala.”

“21 bats that were trapped and tested in May were insectivores that do not carry the Nipah virus; 55 bats trapped in the second round included fruit bats, which tested positive for the Nipah virus,” a scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research told HT. Pteropus giganteus (greater Indian flying fox), Eonycteris spelaea, Cynopterus, Scotophilus kuhlii and Hipposideros larvatus are some of the bat species in India, that are known to carry Nipah virus.

Meanwhile, the Kerala government on Sunday declared Kozhikode and Malappuram to be free from the virus, as no new cases were reported till June 1.

Out of the 17 casualties, fourteen deaths were reported from Khozikode and three from Malappuram. Several villagers abandoned their homes and livestock and subsequently moved to other districts. During the outbreak, the Kerala government carried out extensive containment efforts by orienting and educating the hospitals and the health workers on the infection, its prevention, control practices, treatment protocols and also safe burial process of the deceased.

Ever since the outbreak, ICMR has been putting more emphasis on epidemiological studies and research, for virus sequencing, drug sensitivity testing, and candidate vaccine strain identification, and is also strengthening its labs and network for easy identification of high-hazard pathogens.

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