Possibility of Nipah virus presence in bats in Wayanad: Kerala to develop monoclonal antibodies

Health Minister Veena George said that there was a possibility of the virus' presence in bats not only in Wayanad but in other districts as well.

BySouth First Desk

Published Oct 25, 2023 | 6:06 PMUpdatedOct 25, 2023 | 6:10 PM

Inspection on eateries

The Kerala government on Wednesday, 25 October, said that there was a possibility of the Nipah virus being present in bats in the Wayanad district of the state.

Citing an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) report, the state’s Health Minister Veena George said the institute gave this information based on studies of the bat samples collected by it.

The minister said that it did not mean there were fresh cases of the virus in that district, and the statement was only intended to caution and alert the state’s health system and the general public.

Also read: ICMR confirms presence of Nipah antibodies in Kozhikode bats

In other districts

She said that there was a possibility of the virus’ presence in bats not only in Wayanad but in other districts as well.

George was speaking to reporters about the current status of the Nipah outbreak in the state which had infected six people in Kozhikode district last month and of whom two had died.

The minister said that all those people who were on the contact list of those infected had completed their isolation and quarantine periods.

She also said that it was a matter of pride that the state was able to restrict Nipah’s mortality rate, which is around 70-90 percent, to 33 percent.

The minister also referred to the various measures, like the issuance of Kozhikode-specific standard operating procedures (SOPs), taken by the government to combat the virus.

Additionally, a Kerala One Health Centre for Nipah Research has also been created, she said.

Research to develop monoclonal antibodies

Presently, there will be a consolidation of the field activities of all departments with regard to public health and will be a part of the Kozhikode Medical College, the minister said.

However, moving forward, the intention is to develop it as an independent research institute with its own infrastructure, she said.

She also said that the monoclonal antibodies which were the only treatment against Nipah infection would be developed indigenously to combat the deadly virus.

George revealed that a decision had been taken by two national and a Kerala government institute to develop monoclonal antibodies.

The Kerala government’s Institute of Advanced Virology, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) and the National Institute of Virology in Pune would be involved in the effort, she said.

Also read: Kerala beats the virus? Fatality rate in current outbreak just 33%

‘To use antibodies from recovered patients’

The minister said it was being considered to develop the antibodies using the cells of patients who recovered from the virus which infected six persons, of whom two died, in the Kozhikode district of the state last month.

The minister said the monoclonal antibodies were presently being imported from Australia where they are made according to the Nipah variant present there.

“We need to manufacture it indigenously for the variant seen here,” she said.

The virus strain seen in Kerala was the Bangladesh variant, which has a high mortality rate of around 70-90 per cent.

Of the two deaths due to Nipah, the first person who died on August 30 was found to be the index case, or patient zero, from whom others caught the infection.

The outbreak of the virus this year was the fourth in the state since 2018.

(With PTI inputs)