In a bid to halt the spread of the deadly Nipah Virus in Kerala, the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has sought help from Australia, where an antibody against the virus was found to be effective in tests.
One of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world, ICMR is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research. The body has requested Australia’s Queensland government to provide the antibody, which could ‘neutralise’ the deadly virus in humans.
However, according to reports, the antibody has not been tested on humans so far.
“We have asked them to give their monoclonal antibody for conducting a test in India to find out if it can neutralise the Nipah virus in humans. In Australia, it has only been tried in-vitro (outside a living body, in artificial conditions, usually a test tube) and has been found to be effective. But it has not been tested on humans,” Dr Balram Bhargava, ICMR Director General told The Free Press Journal.
In-vitro (which means ‘in the glass’) studies happen on microorganisms, cells, or biological molecules outside their usual biological context.
While stating that Australia is willing to share the antibody with India, as this would generate more evidence on the antibody’s effectiveness, the Director also clarified that this move does not imply a vaccine is on the way.
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At present, the ICMR is working on a dossier to shed light on the methodology and regulatory process that would be implemented to expedite the process.
“It is not yet sure how much it will be effective,” he added.
As per the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), the drug ribavirin has shown limited effectiveness against the virus in-vitro, but so far human investigations have been found to be inconclusive, and the clinical usefulness of the drug remains ambiguous.
With the death toll rising to 12 and about 95 families under medical surveillance in northern parts of Kerala, the Union Health Ministry has issued an advisory highlighting preventive measures that the general public and healthcare personnel should adopt in high-risk areas, along with information on how the disease spreads and the symptoms.
You can read more about Nipah Virus here.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)