The deadly Nipah virus which had once wreaked havoc in Kerala has been found in two species of bats in Maharashtra for the first time by scientists from the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV).
The NIV findings were part of an article namely ‘Journal of Infection and Public Health’ which stated that so far India has been engulfed by four Nipah outbreaks
Nipah is a virus that is transmitted through bats and features in the top 10 priority list of pathogens identified by WHO.
As per sources, the virus-laden bats were discovered from a cave in Mahabaleshwar in Satara in the month of March 2020. Talking to TOI, a lead investigator said that none of the bat species in Maharashtra had previously shown exposure to Nipah.
The detection of the Nipah virus in bat species is a matter of worry since there is no cure for the disease and it also has a high death rate.
In the past few years, viruses transmitted from bats have led to worldwide outbreaks like Ebola, Marburg, or the most recent Covid-19 pandemic. However, while the case fatality rate in Covid is between 1% and 2% in most Indian states, it ranges between 65% and 100% in cases of the Nipah virus.
For the purpose of the study, 65 leschenaultii and 15 Pipistrellus bats were trapped and blood, throat, and rectal swabs from the anesthetized bats inside Mahabaleshwar were collected. After detailed examination, anti-NiV antibodies in 33 leschenaultii and 1 Pipistrellus bat sample was found as opposed to the last investigation where Nipah) the activity could not be detected in leschenaultia bats, despite processing several hundreds of them.
Quelling fears about the recent virus discovery, Dr. Pragya Yadav, the study’s lead investigator told TOI that the team is not worried about the Pipistrellus bats. “Their role in virus spillover to humans appears remote as they are insectivorous. As they shared the same habitat as the leschenaultii bats, they tested positive,”
The Nipah outbreak reported in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts of Kerala in May 2018 was the third of Nipah Virus Outbreaks in India, the earlier being in 2001 and 2007, both in West Bengal. A total of 23 cases were identified, including the index case with 18 laboratory-confirmed cases.