HYDERABAD: In a move that could ease the job of many health officials, the Telangana government has approved the proposal to upgrade the Bio Safety Level (BSL)-2 Laboratory at the Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM) to BSL-3 lab for testing suspected cases of Nipah, Zika or Ebola etc.
This move comes after doctors, a week back, suspected Nipah virus infection in two patients admitted at hospitals in Hyderabad. A health official had to travel all the way to National Institute of Virology (NIV)-Pune at night in his personal vehicle for handing over the samples. This left the officials shuddering at the thought of handling similar cases in coming days.
It may be mentioned here that every time there is a suspected case of infection like Nipah, Zika or Ebola in Telangana, State Health department officials make frantic calls to find staff for travelling all the way from Hyderabad or other districts to the National Institute of Virology (NIV)-Pune, where tests are performed to detect the presence of rare virus. IPM’s director Dr K Shankar, who sent the proposal for upgrading the laboratory to top officials in Health department, said, “We have received positive response regarding upgrading the laboratory at IPM. In case there is a new form of infection causing virus, if we have kits, tests can be performed at BSL-3 Lab itself. It does not pose any harm to staff if the tests are performed at the level-3 lab,” Dr Shankar said.
Interestingly, while National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines state that Nipah virus is a BSL-4 agent, officials from the State Health department said that the tests can be performed at BSL-3 lab. There is difference in the level of safety precautions that are taken in BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratory. For instance, the air that comes out of the lab is not recirculated into BSL-3 lab. Although officials said lab of BSL-4 is desirable, they said it needs more resources and exclusive space.
According to NCDC guidelines, apart from NIV-Pune, Manipal Centre for Virus Research, Karnataka, have the facility to test Nipah virus.