India has experienced four NiV outbreaks so far, with a high case fatality rate of 65-100%. WHO lists Nipah among its top 10 pathogens. Therefore the need for more studies like this one.
The Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology (ICMR-NIV) have made a significant breakthrough in the study of the possible presence of Nipah virus (NiV) antibodies in bats. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified NiV in the top 10 priority list of pathogens.
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In March 2020, ICMR-NIV in its cross-sectional survey, picked up samples with the presence of antibodies against the Nipah virus in some bat species from a cave in Mahabaleshwar, a hill station in Maharashtra.
The ICMR-NIV’s new study -- 'Detection of Possible Nipah Virus Infection in Rousettus Leschenaultii and Pipistrellus Pipistrellus Bats in Maharashtra, India' -- was published in the Journal of Infection and Public Health.
This is the first such report of NiV infection in Rousettus leschenaultii (medium-sized fruit eating bats) in India, which showed the presence of both NiV ribonucleic acid and anti-NiV IgG antibodies in bats.
During March 2020, researchers anaesthetised two species of bats, Rousettus leschenaultii (medium-sized fruit eating bats) and Pipistrellus pipistrellus (tiny insectivorous bats) using mist nets from a cave in Mahabaleshwar in Satara district. They collected blood, throat and rectal swab samples as well as organ swab samples from the kidney, liver, and spleen.
Necropsy of 10 bats of each species was performed at the containment facility of ICMR-NIV, Pune.
One bat each from R leschenaultii and P pipistrellus species tested positive for both NiV ribonucleic acid and anti-NiV IgG antibodies, the study said. IgG antibodies remain in the blood after an infection has passed.
In studies conducted during the earlier outbreaks, the NiV ribonucleic acid and antibodies were found in the samples collected with respect to Pteropus medius bats (large fruit-eating bats).
There are limited studies on other species of bats as potential NiV breeding grounds.
Why is the Study Significant?
Indian states have been identified as potential breeding grounds for NiV, according to a study done in 2018.
Way back in 2001, the first evidence of NiV infection in India was reported in Siliguri, West Bengal. In 2007, Bengal’s Nadia district reported NiV infection and later it was found in Cooch Behar, which close to the Bangladesh border.
Subsequently, the presence of NiV antibodies was detected in Mynaguri and Dubri districts of Assam.
In 2018, Kerala’s Kozhikode witnessed the third outbreak, leading to 18 fatalities. Kerala witnessed the fourth outbreak in 2019.
Till date, India has experienced four NiV outbreaks, with a case fatality rate ranging from 65-100 percent.
Bat roosts exist in areas where humans reside and the possibility of human-to-human transmission and lack of effective vaccine poses a major concern in India, said researchers.
ICMR-NIV researchers said more studies in bats and humans are therefore needed to understand the prevalence of the virus in Maharashtra.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)