Two years after the swine flu outbreak, the city has finally got a research facility for the examination of organisms that cause highly infectious airborne diseases.
Last week, a laboratory - Biosafety Lab Level 3 - at the Haffkine Institute at Parel was certified by an independent agency, signalling the start of research work commissioned to understand organisms responsible for diseases such as swine flu, bird flu and encephalitis.
"The first of its kind in the city, the laboratory has enhanced our diagnostic capabilities. We will be able to handle more dangerous organisms, especially those which are air borne in a controlled environment," said Dr Abhay Chowdhary, director of the institute. "The laboratory is designed to prevent any entry of external non-sanitised air that can lead to contamination of outside air."
Though work on the laboratory began post the swine flu outbreak in 2009, the Centre sanctioned Rs3.5 crore for the facility after the bird flu pandemic five years ago.
The new laboratory will help in identifying, isolating and conducting an in-depth study of new pathogens in safe manner. "This laboratory can help find antidotes or vaccines for unknown diseases," said Dr Shweta Kothari, senior scientific officer, department of virology at the institute.
Built within the institute's premises, the laboratory comprises a bio-safety cabinet with a virus burnout unit, preservation and culturing facility, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and mechanism for sterilisation of materials.
Though the institute has a BSL 2 level laboratory in place, which was used for testing the swine flu virus, its scope was limited.
"We had taken all the safety precautions then to conduct molecular testing of the virus. But we could handle only known organisms whose disease causing ability and control measures were available," said Dr Chowdhary.