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Corona battle: IVRI in the forefront, testing both human and animal samples

By Chandan Kumar
PUBLISHED ON JUN 20, 2020 09:08 PM IST

Lucknow: A week before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced lockdown across the country to fight Covid-19 outbreak, a meeting was hastily called at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) Bareilly to discuss testing, the most essential element in the fight against corona virus.

“The meeting was called after we got the go ahead from director-general Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) Trilochan Mohapatra to begin Covid-19 testing in our lab,” recalled RK Singh, director general, IVRI. The meeting ended briefly with directions to experts who were tasked to begin preparations for testing.

Now three months later, the entire health infrastructure of Covid-19 management in districts of Rohilkhand region depends on tests done at IVRI. The deemed institute for veterinary sciences is one of the 33 designated testing centres in the state and the only place where Covid-19 samples of both animals and humans are tested. It is the only Covid-19 testing facility for Bareilly, Badaun, Pilibhit and other adjoining districts of the region.

After making arrangements for sample handling, testing protocols and training the required staff, IVRI began testing on April 16. Only five samples were tested on the first day. At that time, the number of cases across the country was in double digit. “We have successfully tested 10761 samples of various district of the region till now. We are trying to test close to 300 samples every day. We have also tested 43 Covid-19 samples from wild animals,” said VK Gupta, joint director of Centre for Animal Disease Research and Diagnosis (CADRAD) at IVRI which is handling Covid-19 testing.

Covid-19 is found to infect some species of wild animals who can act as its carrier. So the Institute is also testing samples of animals sent from various parts of the country.

The Covid-19 testing for animals began on April 6 and so far 43 samples collected from tigers, leopards , lions, black bears, bats, monkeys, elephants, wild boars and bisons from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Delhi have been tested. All these samples were found negative except that of a tiger and lion sent from Jaipur zoo. The results of both these samples are awaited.

The testing of samples of both animals and humans is part of the push for the idea of ‘one health’ which believes that human and animal health is closely interlinked. The idea has been an integral part of IVRI since its inception.

In 1889 when the Institute was established to look for cure of animal diseases, Dr Alfred Lingard, a physician, was made its first director.

“Covid-19 pandemic has proved again that we need to work in the direction of one health,” said Singh.

The institute has also begun research to develop a Covid-19 vaccine for animals and hopes that it may pave the way for human vaccines.

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