The National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, debunked the findings of the international study that stated that the H1N1 virus in circulation in India has mutated. According to NIV officials, the strain analysed in the said publication and the sequence data of the original H1N1 virus was available with them, and it has not mutated.
In a press release, the NIV said the strain mentioned in the report of 2014 has no relevance to the current outbreak. “Recently, NIV has analysed six full genome, which also suggest absent of mutation,” it said.
The premier institute has, however, been asked to submit a detailed report to the Union health and family welfare ministry about the study conducted by the MIT.
The NIV works under the Indian Council of Medical Research and is designated to study swine flu epidemic.
“We are in the process of submitting a report to the ministry,” said Dr Mandeep Chadha, deputy director and head of influenza virus research, NIV.
Earlier in February, scientists at NIV had told HT that the virus had not mutated.
Infectious disease experts said there was no need to panic even if the strain had mutated. “The prevention protocols and advisory remain the same. By mutation, one means that there is an antigenic drift in the virus. All viruses are known to change,” said Dr Abhay Chaudhary, director, Haffkine Institute, Parel.
Chaudhary said the mutation only means that people who were infected earlier and developed immunity against the virus are now equally vulnerable.
Although the NIV denies it, city doctors are not surprised about the MIT’s findings. “There is a notable difference in the symptoms and the clinical presentation of the patients testing positive this year. This indicates a change in the way the virus is affecting the patients,” said Dr Om Shrivastav, director, infectious disease department, Jaslok hospital, Peddar Road.
Shrivastav said partial autopsy of patients dying of H1N1 needs to be conducted to understand the increased mortality.