With the country on a high alert for any Ebola outbreak, in Pune, a 15-member team at National Institute of Virology’s (NIV) top laboratory is on standby. “We have tested seven samples so far and all were negative for Ebola,” Dr DT Mourya, director, NIV, said.
Recent outbreaks of Nipah, Chandipura, avian influenza, pandemic influenza, Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) and now, Ebola — has made the 15-member NIV team undertake all preparations. The international protocol laid down by Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, Atlanta and World Health Organisation (WHO), is being strictly followed by NIV, Mourya said.
NIV’s bio safety laboratory (BSL-4) — which is the only one in Asia — has been tackling dangerous viruses in the country. International guidelines are being strictly followed to ensure there is no risk to virologists while they test the pathogenic agents, Dr Mandeep Chadda, deputy director, NIV, said.
Biosafety level is the level of containment or precaution taken to isolate biological agents in an enclosed facility. Levels of containment range from the lowest biosafety level 1 to the highest 4, Mourya said. The microbial containment lab can store exotic and highly infectious agents like ebola virus, lassa and haemorrhagic fever viruses.
When the NIV is alerted about an Ebola suspect’s sample being sent for tests, the team advises officials concerned regarding the procedure to ship and package the sample.
Blood is collected by venipuncture into a special vacutainer in which the serum separates out. The tube is then packaged very carefully into a 3-bag container. This is called triple packaging for biosafety and provides protection from spillage. Then, shipping takes place according to the CDC/WHO guidelines.
As soon as the sample arrives at NIV, it is taken to the BSL-4 lab and opened in the contained environment. The sample is processed as per CDC guidelines and infections are confirmed using a real-time RT-PCR assay. Results are obtained within 24-48 hours.