It’s been three months since swine flu entered the country, and scientists are wondering whether the virus that causes it has mutated.
AC Dhariwal, additional director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), told Hindustan Times, “Our scientists are trying to find out if H1N1 is changing genetically.” Dhariwal is in Pune to oversee state health authorities dealing with the situation, especially because the virus seems to be spreading.
The virus, when it entered Pune through a student returning from the US, was milder then. Scientists at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) too said the virus was milder in the first phase. However, more people are turning critically ill now.
“As of now, there is no evidence that it has mutated. But we are keeping a check on it,” said Dhariwal. NIV Director AC Mishra was unavailable for comment.
At Serum Institute of India, scientists felt it was those who had lower immunity that died or fell critically ill. “It’s premature to talk about mutation. I think it’s more to do with patients’ immunity,” said Rajeev Dhere, director of the institute’s vaccine production unit.
The institute is working on a vaccine for swine flu, which should be available by next March. “From next month, we will test the vaccine tests on animals. In December, we hope to approach the government for permission to test it on humans,” said Dhere.
He said scientists have characterised the virus. Once the vaccine is ready, it can be mass produced after government permission.