Swine flu: Expert urges Indian researchers to find out if virus has mutated

In view of the high mortality rate across the country this year due to swine flu, Rafi Ahmed, Director of Emory Vaccine Centre in Atlanta, US, has said that there is an urgent need to sequence the H1N1 to find out whether the virus has mutated or not.

Last Updated: Feb 25, 2015, 09:19 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Hyderabad: In view of the high mortality rate across the country this year due to swine flu, Rafi Ahmed, Director of Emory Vaccine Centre in Atlanta, US, has said that there is an urgent need to sequence the H1N1 to find out whether the virus has mutated or not.

Dr Ahmed, who is also on the advisory committee of the Indian government's department of biotechnology, said the highest priority of Indian researchers, particularly those in government institutions, should be to sequence the virus circulating here.

“They should find out whether this virus mutated further. If there is a different pandemic H1N1 being circulated in India, it may have global implications,” he said.

Ahmed, a world-renowned scientist in viral pathogenesis, has also called for screening the samples for H3N2 and influenza type B besides H1N1 virus.

He has also recommended that instead of the current monovalent vaccine which targets only H1N1, India should go for a trivalent vaccine to provide protection from H2N3 and type B as well.

Addressing a press conference here, Dr Ahmed also suggested that India contribute to global efforts for development of an improved flu vaccine, which can provide protection from previous, current and even future strains.

He said the US reported more influenza cases this year than in the past and majority of them were H3N2.

“Both H1N1 and H3N2 are dangerous with mortality rate of 1 to 2 percent in case of pandemic strain,” he added.

The scientist, who is already working on development of an improved universal vaccine, visited vaccine-maker Bharat Biotech here and agreed to share information and collaborate.

He said the current available vaccine has efficacy of only 20 to 50 percent and needs to be taken every year as it has to match circulating strain.

The expert said an improved vaccine, which is likely to be developed in 10 years, would provide wider coverage and people would need to take it once in five or 10 years.

Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech CMD Krishna Ella said Ella Foundation had collected samples in Hyderabad and was trying to identify the strains.

He said the company was working on producing swine flu vaccine in bulk and was in talks with the central government.

The firm had to destroy its swine flu vaccine stocks earlier because of poor demand and short shelf-life of the product.

It normally takes three months to manufacture a vaccine, which can be used for one year.

According to the data collected by Health Ministry, 875 persons have died in various states till February 23 this year while 15,413 persons have been affected by the deadly virus.

(With Agency Inputs)