Doctors at Sassoon Hospital, who are in the thick of the swine flu battle, are a worried lot. Thirty-five patients with swine flu-like symptoms died in the last 45 days at the hospital, and not one of them tested positive for swine flu. The doctors still don't know what caused the death of these patients.
Tell the world
"We requested the National Institute of Virology (NIV) to check tissue samples from these patients for eight to 10combinations of the HN virus subtype like H1N2 or H2N2. It is extremely important that the virus is identified so we can decide on the course of treatment," said Dr Arun Jamkar, dean of Sassoon Hospital, which has been dubbed as the epicentre of the swine flu activity in the state.
On October 28, doctors at Sassoon shared the data on these deaths with the Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, USA, and virologists across the world in a videoconference.
Despite repeated attempts, Dr A C Mishra, director of NIV, remained unavailable for comment. Dr Mandeep Chaddha, deputy director, NIV, said she wasn't authorised to speak to the media.
Impact on vaccine
Dr Pravin Shengare, joint dire-ctor, Directorate of Medical Education and Research, who attended the video-conference, said, "The NIV's report won't have an effect on vaccine production, but it is important to know if another dominant virus sub-type is circulating. If this is the case, a detailed analysis of deaths that occurred due to unexplained symptoms will have to be undertaken," he said.
"If it is found that there is a different strain of the virus, then that strain should ideally be incorporated in the H1N1 vaccine that is being developed by NIV. It is also important to understand how potent that virus is," said
JP Muliyil, senior scientist and epidemiologist at Christian Medical College, Vellore.
Shengare, however, pointed out that the WHO had recommended that a monovalent vaccine against H1N1 be developed. Modifying a vaccine so it provides protection from other viruses would take too much time and effort, he felt. "Even if a new virus sub-type is circulating, the H1N1 vaccine that is being developed won't be useless, as it can still be used to fight swine flu. If there is another virus, we'll have to deal with it separately," said Shengare.