KOCHI: The Nipah scare, which gripped the state after a 12-year-old boy succumbed to the virus, has started fading away gradually after the boy’s primary contacts tested negative. However, the danger is not completely over and the Health Department knows that.
As part of gearing up for treating any future patients contracting the virus, the department has changed its treatment methodology slightly by including antiviral drugs that were used to fight Covid, rather than relying solely on monoclonal antibody treatment, which requires medicines imported from abroad.
The department, in its recently-released treatment protocol for Nipah management, included antiviral drugs Remdesivir and Favipiravir in the treatment plan. International studies, conducted in the backdrop of the extremely high fatality rate of Nipah infection and the fact that very few doses of monoclonal antibody (m102.4) are available for human use, have shown that adding Remdesivir in Nipah treatment would help improve preparedness for future outbreaks.
“Since Nipah infection has a high fatality rate, several countries have initiated studies on finding possible treatments. A study on the efficacy of Remdesivir against Nipah virus, published last year by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), showed that all animals treated with Remdesivir as part of the study survived the Nipah virus. The study indicated that Remdesivir represents a promising treatment for the infection. The antiviral drug has a wide range of possibilities, and clinical trials are progressing to use it to treat Ebola as well,” said Dr Mathew John, an epidemiologist based in Kochi.
“Earlier, during the Nipah outbreak in 2018, the drugs were not in common use and not readily available in the market. This changed with the outbreak of Covid pandemic. This may be the reason for the officials to include it in the Nipah treatment protocol,” said Dr Mathew.
Doctors with Kozhikode Medical College Hospital said Favipiravir was given to people in the boy’s primary contact list and they have not developed any unusual symptoms. “Though there is no conclusive evidence yet on any of the medications to treat Nipah, for an emergency, Remdesivir is used to subdue the fatality of the disease. It can be administered only if the person is positive for the infection. Also, more doses of monoclonal antibody will be arriving to prepare for any dire situation. As of now, we are relived that the health of those who developed symptoms is stable,” said a health department official.