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Health experts to study MIT research on H1N1 virus acquiring mutations

Sources revealed that experts are already performing research on the virus since its outbreak in the state in 2009.

Written by Ritu Sharma | Ahmedabad |
March 16, 2015 3:21:20 am

In order to gain clarity and study the outcomes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research, the Gujarat health department has set up a panel of health experts. The MIT research has raised concerns over the H1N1 virus in India acquiring mutations and making it more severe than the version that emerged in 2009, the year that claimed 125 lives and recorded 697 cases. The numbers, this year has already beaten that record as so far, since January 1, 2015 Gujarat has recorded 387 deaths and 6,148 cases.

Confirming this, the health commissioner J P Gupta said, “A panel of some of our best health experts has been entrusted with the task of studying these recent findings released by MIT. As more clarity on the study is required, for instance, the year of samples taken before we frame any changes in our approach in dealing with this virus. Also, we have to follow a certain protocol laid down by the international health bodies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) in reacting to this virus.”

The sources revealed that these experts are already performing research on the virus since its outbreak in the state in 2009. As per the reports, the MIT study included two sequences for the year 2014 deposited by the National Institute of Virology (NIV). The Indian scientists who have conducted the MIT study have identified three mutations in these two strains.

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It is to be noted that the NIV has samples from Gujarat too as after its outbreak in January this year, the state health department had submitted the virus samples to the NIV and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). These medical research bodies along with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have so far maintained that the tests conducted in the current and previous outbreaks have not established any significant mutations in the genes of the H1N1 strain that first surfaced in the year 2009.

However, questioning the study and also in an attempt to defuse panic, the health commissioner also pointed out that the state government authorities are not too ‘alarmed’ by these findings as the drugs being used are showing results.

“The mutations theory is little sceptical as we have seen positive results of the drug that is currently being used to treat the virus on the patients. So, as of now, there is nothing to be scared of,” added Gupta.

The state government authorities are treading cautiously as Gujarat has been reporting the highest number of cases and deaths due to Swine flu counted since January 1. The health department has also constituted six study centres at its six government medical colleges to research and analyse Swine flu pattern and spread in the state.

The areas of research also include the effectiveness of drugs to be studied under the ‘clinical’ aspects of the virus while its spread and prevalence pattern is to be analysed under the category of ‘community’.

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