Nipah: Not sure how the infection passed from bats to humans, says ICMR DG Rajeev Bahl

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New Delhi: India will procure from Australia 20 more doses of monoclonal antibody for the treatment of Nipah virus infection, ICMR DG Rajeev Bahl said on Friday.

"We got some doses of monoclonal antibody from Australia in 2018. Currently the doses are available for only 10 patients," he said.

According to him, no one so far has been administered the medicine in India.

"Twenty more doses are being procured. But the medicine needs to be given during the early stage of the infection," he said, adding it can only given as compassionate use medicine.

Bahl also said mortality among the infected is very high in Nipah (between 40 and 70 per cent) in Nipah compared to the mortality in Covid, which was 2-3 per cent. He asserted that all efforts are on to contain the spread of the virus in Kerala. All patients are contact of an index patient, he said.

On why cases keep surfacing in Kerala, Bahl said, "We do not know. In 2018, we found the outbreak in Kerala was related to bats. We are not sure how the infection passed from Bats to humans. The link couldn't be established. Again we are trying to find out this time. It always happens in the rainy season."

He said monoclonal antibody has been given to 14 patients infected with Nipah virus outside India and all of them have survived.

"Only phase 1 trial to establish the safety of the medicine has been done outside. Efficacy trials have not been done. It can only given as compassionate use medicine," he said.

Globally monoclonal antibody have been given to 14 patients infected with NipahVirus outside India and all of them have survived. The decision to use the antibody, however, has to be of the Kerala government's, besides that of doctors and also families of patients.

With the number of active cases rising to four, the state government has decided to test everyone who are on the high-risk contact list of the infected persons.It is suspected that the patients under treatment were infected with the virus from a person who died on August 30, Minister Veena George said.

"So, we have decided to test all those who are under high-risk contacts even though they don't have any symptoms. Currently, we have two additional facilities in Kozhikode. We have a mobile lab from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) with two machines that can test 96 samples at a time," she said.

As per protocol, only the samples of those who show symptoms can be checked. "But here we have decided to test the samples of all those who are in the high-risk category of contacts," the Minister said.

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