The News Minute | March 12, 2015 | 08:19 pm IST
New Delhi: The National Institute of Virology on Thursday said there was no evidence to suggest that the swine flu virus in India may have mutated.
A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted by a team of Indian-origin scientists said swine flu has killed over 1,500 people and infected more than 27,000 people in India and the virus has acquired mutations that make it more dangerous than previously circulating strains of H1N1 influenza.
The flu virus in India seems to have acquired mutations that could spread more readily, the MIT scientists warned in the study.
Official sources at the NIV in Pune said the genetic analysis of the H1N1 isolates from the present 2015 outbreak do not show any such mutations as mentioned in the MIT publication.
The observation in the MIT report was based on gene sequence analysed for the H1N1 virus taken from a database and not from actual virus isolates from the current 2015 outbreak, the NIV sources said.
The NIV works under the auspices of the Indian Council of Medical Research, the premier research organisation under the union health ministry.
Indian health experts also said the report needs to be studied thoroughly before being accepted.
"This is a new study. We need to go through it and research properly. It is important to know how they reached the conclusion. It will take at least one-two days to go through the study, only then I can comment on it," S.K. Sharma, director health services under the Delhi government, told IANS.
The findings, reported in the scientific journal Cell Host and Microbe, contradict previous reports from Indian health officials that the strain has not changed from the version of H1N1 that emerged in 2009 and has been circulating around the world ever since.
Mutation is a permanent change of the nucleotide sequence of the genome of an organism, virus, or extra-chromosomal DNA or other genetic elements.
N.K. Mehra, former dean of research at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said it was important to study the MIT report before coming to any conclusion.
"It will be too early to comment now without going through the report properly," he said.
A senior official of the health ministry also said the issue will be discussed with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) before coming to any conclusion.