The Kerala government will conduct further tests after initial tests on 21 samples from bats and pigs turned out negative for the spread of the Nipah virus (NiV) that took 12 lives, including one who is suspected to have died after contracting the virus, in Kerala's Kozhikode and Malappuram districts, officials said on Friday.
A total of 21 samples from bats and pigs were sent to the High Security Animal Diseases laboratory at Bhopal but all turned out negative according to the results, obtained late Friday evening, said officials.
Early this week, a team led by Central Animal Husbandry Commissioner SP Suresh, after examination of animals in the affected areas near Kozhikode, said no incidence of Nipah virus had been identified in animals and it was the humans who had been affected.
The samples sent to Bhopal included those taken from bats found in the house of disease victim Moosa in the worst-affected Perambara village. His two sons and another relative also succumbed.
All the 21 samples were collected from in and nearby Perambara.
Transmission of NiV takes place through direct contact with infected bats, pigs or from other NiV-infected people.
With the results showing that this virus has not come from the bats in the vicinity, authorities have now decided to conduct more tests to locate its source.
Earlier, Kerala Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan told TNM, â€śFrom the management point of view, the infection has been contained, we know where the infection started from. Regarding the original source of infection or how it happened, this is an academic area.â€ť
He elaborated, â€śIf there are 1 lakh bats in the area and say five of them are infected, the probability of finding one infected bat out of 1 lakh bats is highly improbable.â€ť
The state Health Minister KK Shylaja has appealed to the people to not attack or kill any bats. If people disturb the habitats of bats, they will move to other localities. She said experts are on the job to catch and run tests on the bats and stressed that bats are not to be feared.
Following an all-party meeting convened by the Kerala government in Kozhikode to discuss the measures taken so far against the outbreak of the Nipah virus, the Health Minister said, â€śAs of now, 14 cases have turned positive for Nipah virus infection, out of which 11 people have passed away. Three people are in critical condition and undergoing treatment.â€ť
All people who were in close contact with the infected patients have been put under observation and samples from them were sent to Manipal Centre for Virus Research (MCVR). The results of 21 samples came out yesterday and all are negative. Efforts are being made to trace people who were in the vicinity and travelling now.
Also, efforts are being made to trace the travel routes which the deceased Mohammad Sadik had undertaken. This could possibly give some information whether he contracted the virus from some other area.
Sadik had been working abroad for years and one month ago he had come home to Kerala, to undertake treatment for gastro-enteric (stomach and intestine related) problems. Sadik is the first person to have died due to Nipah infection in Kerala. However, samples could not be collected from the deceased to confirm the virus. It was from his infected family members Mohammed Salih and Mariam that samples were collected and the virus was confirmed.
Drug from Australia
Nipah infection is a rare disease, for which no vaccine exists. However, Ribavirin, a relatively effective anti-viral drug, is being currently used to alleviate the symptoms. The drug was procured from Malaysia and the three critical patients have been given this drug.
Through World Health Organisation (WHO), human monoclonal antibody (M102.4), a non-patented drug is being procured from Australia. This is an antibody, which can neutralise the effects of the virus. This drug has been found to be effective in vitro (in cells or microorganisms placed in a test tube or culture dish). Reports say it has not been tested on humans so far but can be used on compassionate grounds. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Delhi and Kerala State Health Department have approached WHO for the drug. Fifty doses of the medicine are expected to reach Kerala soon.
WHO praises timeliness of response
The state Health Minister KK Shylaja remarked that WHO commented and praised the effective manner in which the disease was contained. What was crucial in this, was the timeliness with which the virus was identified. WHO specifically praised this. It was the alertness and expertise of the team of doctors led by Dr AS Anoop Kumar, Dr C Jayakrishnan and Dr Arun Kumar that made it possible to identify the virus within the second death. Following which the state sprang into vigilance, screening, preventive and treatment measures. All of these contributed to containing the virus and curtailing the number of deaths.
Dr A S Arun Kumar and Dr C Jayakrishnan work at the Baby Memorial Hospital at Kozhikode as Head of Critical Care and Neurologist respectively. Dr Arun Kumar heads the Manipal Centre for Virus Research (MCVR).
Research on finding a cure
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the Deputy Director General of Programmes (DDP) of the WHO took a keen interest in reaching out to the Kerala Health Department. A video conference was arranged by the WHO and attended by experts from National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). WHO roped in several experts from around the globe, including Dr Manoj Mohanan of Duke University. It was decided that research can be initiated for the treatment of Nipah infection. The Community Medicine Department of the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College will play a lead role in the research. Minister KK Shylaja said, â€śMay the joint efforts finally give the people a new medicine to cure Nipah infection.â€ť
(With IANS inputs)