A team of experts from the National Institute of Virology is now using the animal model testing procedure to figure out 'mystery disease'
Even after five bodies of experts failed to detect the identity of the mystery bug that has caused 16 deaths in Sindhudurg in the past three months, the bewildered state health department has asked the team from the National Institute of Virology (NIV) to expedite the search process, and provide it with some much-needed answers. The body of experts from the nation's apex body in virus research is now injecting serum samples in mice, so as to examine their pathological response to its presence in their bloodstream, and deduce the identity of the pathogen that could have cause the mysterious deaths.
MiD DAY had reported in its October 3 ('Mystery illness kills 16'), about the John Doe bug to which 16 residents of Sindhudurg succumbed in the past three months, all exhibiting the common symptom of respiratory failure.
Scientists on the rolls of NIV have now launched an advanced research module, which involves injecting the serums samples collected from Sindhudurg into mice.
"In the animal model testing procedure, we will observe the injected mice, and see if they start exhibiting the same symptoms that were noted in the deceased. We will then study the pathological changes visible in the mice, and hopefully detect the agent causing them," said Dr Vidya Aranpale, senior director, NIV.
Meanwhile, a team from the Microbiology and Preventive Social medicine department of Pune's BJ medical College has examined samples from seven close associates of the victims, who also reported similar symptoms. Of these, six have tested positive for Leptospirosis.
Experts at NIV have also ruled out dengue and chikungunya as the possible cause of death, as none of the collected samples have tested positive for pathogens that cause these two diseases.
"We observed that all the houses in which the disease struck were situated in close proximity of the cattle sheds, a situation favorable for the spread of Leptospirosis," said Dr Mangesh Nanavre, assistant professor, Preventive Social Medicine of BJ Medical College, Pune.
He added that most of the deaths had occurred within five days of the visible onset of symptoms.
Meanwhile, Dr RD Mane, civil surgeon, Sindhudurg Civil hospital, said, "At present, we are treating all patients -- who are exhibiting symptoms like fever, weakness and cough -- as possible carriers of the mystery bug. If they test negative for leptospirosis, malaria, and dengue, we administer medication for symptomatic relief."
At present the hospital has 24 patients suffering from leptospirosis, two of whom are admitted in the ICU.
The clueless state health department has appointed a team of physicians and experts to make Sindhudurg their temporary base, and provide treatment to the patients. Suresh Shetty, the state's health minister, has also scheduled a visit to the district next week.
Dr Pradeep Awate, in-charge of the state's integrated disease surveillance programme, said, "At present, we have reported a total of 58 cases of leptospirosis since April. The doctors have been strictly instructed to treat every case of fever as a suspected case of leptospirosis."