KOCHI: In a major breakthrough to unearth the source of the Nipah virus in the current spell of the disease in central Kerala, the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, has identified the presence of the deadly virus in 12 fruit bats out of the 36 samples tested at the premier institute.
However, over 100 blood and sputum samples of fruit bats were collected from areas of Thrissur, Paravoor, and Thodupuzha. The NIV is yet to confirm the exact area of the bat population from which the virus was identified.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha, said, “NIV, Pune, deputed special teams to collect samples from Pteropus or fruit bats, which are the main reservoir of Nipah virus. Out of the 36 species tested for Nipah, 12 (33 per cent) were found positive for ‘anti-Nipah bat IgG antibodies’.”
According to Deputy Director of NIV Dr A B Sudheep, the tests have taken place in batches and 10-12 samples can be tested in a batch. “We are yet to conduct more specimen checks on the samples collected from the bats. As of now, we have found the same old infection that we have found in the samples collected from bats in Kozhikode. No new virus has been identified and more samples are to be tested,” said Dr Sudheep, who led the expert team in investigating the source of the disease.
When the first outbreak took place in Kozhikode, the team had conducted an in-depth study confined to
Kozhikode only. But now the team is planning to conduct a study across Kerala to find the origin of the virus. “We have to intensify our investigation in finding the source of the virus. We are planning to conduct a survey across Kerala. We will have to hold discussions with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) regarding the study,” said Sudheep.
Assistant Chief of Medical Services, Department of Infectious Diseases and Infection Control, Dr Anup R Warrier said as the boy must have come in direct contact with any of the fruits that have been half-eaten by bats. “The studies and theories prove that the virus spreads to human through direct contact with the mammal and therefore since we have not got anything stating otherwise we have to think that he must have eaten any half-eaten fruits,” said Dr Anup.
The Health Department is trying to find out how the youth got infected. “We have talked to his parents. We are hoping that we receive more details from the youth once he is discharged,” said Ernakulam Additional District Medical Hospital Sreedevi S.