Refuting charges that swine flu strain in India may have mutated, the National Institute of Virology on Thursday said there was no evidence to suggest it and categorically rejected the observations made by an MIT study.[See news report on MIT Study ]
Earlier, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study conducted by a team of Indian-origin scientists said swine flu that has killed over 1,500 people may have acquired mutations that make it more dangerous than previously circulating strains of H1N1 influenza.
They warned that the flu virus in India seems to have acquired mutations that could spread more readily but official sources at the NIV in Pune said the genetic analysis of the H1N1 isolated from the present 2015 outbreak did not show any such mutations.
Rejecting the MIT study outright, the institute said the MIT report was based on gene sequence analysed for the H1N1 virus taken from a database and not from actual virus isolates from the current 2015 outbreak.
The NIV works under the auspices of the Indian Council of Medical Research, which is the premier outfit under the union health ministry to monitor H1N1 strain and the spread of swine flu. They added that the MIT study will be studied further.
“This is a new study. We need to go through it and research properly. It is important to know how they reached the conclusion. It will take at least one-two days to go through the study,” said S.K. Sharma, director health services under the Delhi government, when contacted by IANS.
The findings, published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe, said reports from Indian health officials that the strain has not changed from the version of H1N1 that emerged in 2009 may not hold long as the latest strain may have mutated over the period.
Mutation means a permanent change of the nucleotide sequence of the genome in a virus that may be potentially fatal from the previous one and requires new vaccines and treatment.
Even N.K. Mehra, former dean of research at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said the MIT report should be studied in depth before coming to any conclusion. “It will be too early to comment now without going through the report properly,” he said.
Refusing to give any conclusive verdict on the row, the health ministry said the issue will be discussed with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) before coming to any conclusion.