Indian scientists have isolated the influenza A (H1N1) virus that causes swine flu, the first step towards developing a vaccine against the disease that has infected 28,774 in 74 countries and claimed 144 lives.
“Work on the vaccine has started, with scientists at Pune’s National Institute of Virology (NIV) isolating the virus. India requested the World Health Organisation (WHO) to share the seed virus, which is needed before manufacturing a vaccine of international level,” said Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary, ministry of health.
A seed virus is one that shares the most genetic material with the many strains of the influenza A (H1N1) viruses causing outbreaks in different countries.
“All countries send back isolated viruses to the WHO, which then selects a seed virus. To develop a vaccine that would be effective all over the world, scientists first need to inoculate the virus isolated in India with the seed virus from WHO,” said Dr Sashi Khare, senior consultant microbiologist, National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).
“The WHO has agreed to share the seed virus with countries that have the capacity to develop a vaccine on the understanding that the final product will be shared with the rest of the world. Once we get the seed virus from the WHO, we can develop a vaccine in four to six months,” said Chawdhry.
The Centre is already in talks with three vaccine manufacturers — Serum Institute f India, Bharat Biotech and Panacea Biotech — for manufacturing the final vaccine candidate.
“The manufacturers want some assured returns from the government and that is being worked out,” he added.
A six-year-old girl who travelled from the US to Hyderabad on June 9, transiting through Mumbai, tested positive for swine flu on Friday.
With this India has reported 16 confirmed cases, with no deaths.
Four to six thermal scanners are being installed at the Delhi airport to stop infection from entering the country.