Sindh badly needs institute of virology

KARACHI: Spread of viral diseases is a serious healthcare issue of whole world. Presently, spread of swine flu is a major issue of neighbouring India and Pakistan is also not safe from the disease as at least one swine flu patient had already died in Multan. Dengue viral fever, Congo viral fever and other diseases are common here, but sadly the province of Sindh still is without a proper virology laboratory and it needs its own Sindh Institute of Virology on the pattern of National Institute of Virology, Pune, India.

The National Institute of Virology is one of the major Institutes of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It was established at Pune, Maharashtra State in 1952 as Virus Research Centre (VRC) under the auspices of the ICMR and the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), USA. It was an outcome of the global programme of the RF for investigating the Arthropod Borne viruses. Since the studies on arboviruses and their arthropod vectors involve most of the basic principles and techniques of general virology, entomology and zoology, these viruses were also considered to be an ideal group, to begin with, for intensive training and research in virology in our country. The RF withdrew its support in 1967 and since then the Institute is entirely funded by the ICMR

The research activities of the centre were made more meaningful and self reliant by organizing new areas of research, such as Cell repository, Electron microscopy, Rickettsioses, Hepatitis, Influenza and related viruses, Clinical virology, Biochemistry, Virus registry, and Biostatistics. The research activities of the Institute are coordinated by a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) consisting of eminent scientists.

By the 70s the Institute had developed deep scientific roots, nurtured through the sustained efforts of many dedicated workers. With the expertise in virological training and research and emphasis on self-reliance, the centre was well prepared to undertake full responsibility as a National Institute. On the recommendation of the SAC, the VRC acquired its status of national importance and was renamed as National Institute of Virology (NIV) in 1978. Subsequently studies on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Rotavirus gastroenteritis, acute haemorrhagic conjunctivitis, Rabies, Herpes sirnplex, Buffalo pox, Measles, and Poliomyelitis were also initiated

A Microbial Containment Complex (MCC) having P-3 biosafety levels for handling microorganisms of highly infectious nature is being established at Pashan, 11 km off the main laboratory at Pune. This laboratory will provide National Containment facility for safe handling of highly hazardous pathogens.

The Institute was designated as one of the collaborating laboratories of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1967 and it started functioning as the regional centre of the WHO for South-East Asia for arbovirus studies from 1969. Since 1974, it has been functioning as a WHO collaborating centre for arbovirus reference and research. In 1995 it has been redesignated as the WHO Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus and Haemorrhagic Fever Reference and Research and Rapid Diagnosis of Viral Diseases. NIV is also the National Centre for Hepatitis and Influenza. The field unit of NIV at Bangalore is one of the centres under National Polio Surveillance Program conducting surveillance of acute flaccid paralysis cases from Kamataka as a part of Global Polio Eradication Programme of the WHO South-East Asia region since 1997.

The vision of this centre is studies on viral diseases affecting humans; investigations of outbreaks, isolation and characterization of viruses; providing diagnosis for viral diseases and development of indigenous diagnostic tests; study of natural cycle, maintenance and spread of viruses; developing models for prediction of viral epidemics; developing animal models to study pathogenesis of viruses; developing in vitro culture systems, including development of cell lines from mammals, arthropods and fishes; studies on genetic and immunological properties of various viruses; molecular epidemiology; developing methods of prevention and control of viral diseases, and creating awareness of viral diseases.

Sindh minister for parliamentary affairs Dr Sikandar Mandhro, who himself is a senior doctor and keen in promoting healthcare facilities in Sindh, and Sindh health minister Dr Mahtab Dahar who is a serious to revolutionize the medical care sector in Sindh should draft a Sindh Institute of Virology Bill and get it passed from the Sindh assembly at the earliest.

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