While the focus of the National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) remains on the control and spread of HIV, researchers are also applying their expertise in managing other diseases. For the first time, a state-of-the-art laboratory is being set up to diagnose Rickettsial infections at the national institute. Recently, Indian Council of Medical Research chief Dr Soumya Swaminathan had encouraged NARI scientists to look beyond HIV and expand the institute’s mandate to deal to manage other chronic diseases.
“One such disease is Rickettsial infection which is a major cause of illness… there are challenges in the early diagnosis and management of these infections,” said NARI Director Dr R R Gangakhedkar. The Indian Academy of Paediatrics has also formed practice guidelines to help paediatricians across the country in the management of Rickettsial diseases. Some of the factors associated with the infections are the increasing cases across various states, diagnostic dilemma in minds of practicing physicians, and lack of freely available, rapid and cheap diagnostic tests.
“These infections, transmitted by fleas, mice, lice and ticks, have been reported from various states. Once considered a disease that affects the rural population, it is being increasingly reported from urban areas,” wrote Dr Narendra Rathi, consultant paediatrician from Akola, in the Indian Paediatrics Journal’s recent issue.
“Treatment of these infections is highly effective in the early course of the disease, but it is difficult to make a diagnosis of the disease at this stage due to… non-specificity of symptoms and absence of widely available diagnostic tests,” paediatricians stated in the Journal. Researchers at the NARI laboratory will also try to find the prevalence of different organisms of the rickettsial group.