NIV to zoom in on new, re-emerging viruses

Dr D T Maurya

Global expert on biosafety Dr D T Mourya takes over as institute director

A global expert on biosafety who pioneered the development of the country's first maximum Containment Biosafety Laboratory BSL-4 at National Institute of Virology, Dr D T Mourya has now taken charge of the institute the apex institute of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Mourya succeeds Dr A C Mishra.

Faced with the challenging task of leading one of the country's sentinel institutes for virus-borne diseases, the new NIV director told The Indian Express that his main focus would be on re-emerging and newly emerging viruses.

In recent years, a number of zoonotic viral diseases have emerged in Southeast Asia as Nipah and Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF). "We are responsible for investigation of viral disease outbreaks of humans, including zoonosis, in the country. The CCHF was recently confirmed for the first time in India when human cases were reported from a hospital in Ahmedabad. Lab investigations in the NIV confirmed the presence of CCHF that was first recognised in the mid-1940s in the Crimean peninsula. Recent surveillance work has led to the isolation of a novel adenovirus from common species of fruit bat (Rousettus leschenaulti) captured at Mahableshwar in Maharashtra," Mourya said.

One of the key virologists in the development of the BSL-4 (the first such facility to study and conduct research on highly infectious pathogens), Mourya is now working towards making it operational within the next six months. The highly secure virus vault at the BSL-4 will house highly pathogenic viruses. "Our laboratory at Pashan is ready; a highly specialised team of core experts are undergoing training and it will take another six months to get operational," he said.

Mourya said their influenza team was studying various aspects, including seasonal changes related to H1N1 virus (swine flu) that has impacted Pune for the last three years. "Various surveys and research studies are under way. The search is also on for a vaccine against avian influenza (H5N1) and hepatitis," he said.

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