The Indian National Institute of Virology has released a statement Thursday afternoon in which it denies claims brought by a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study, which states that the swine flu virus has acquired deadlier mutations in the Asian country.
The MIT study initially published on Wednesday suggests that the virus has mutated to become more virulent and immune to known vaccines since its worldwide outbreak in 2009. The study was done by analyzing genetic sequences of two Indian swine flu strains form 2014 accessible through a public database.
But the Indian government agency has responded Thursday night to this by declaring the results of the MIT study, done by two researchers of Indian origin, to be incorrect. They said the current form of the virus in India bears no difference when compared with the one that started a global pandemic five years ago, claiming more than 280.000 lives.
This hardly explains why the number of H1N1 related deaths in India during 2015’s first two and a half months are higher than in the past four years combined. Indian government officials have admitted towards the end of February that the current 21 laboratories country-wide that could analyze swine flu strains are too few to keep up with the pace of the rapidly spreading virus, while also promising efforts are underway to supply this number.
Over 1,500 Indian citizens have succumbed in 2015 to the H1N1 virus, which already represents six times the total number of deaths related to swine flu in 2014. This has also caused concern in several experts from neighboring Pakistan, who fear that the epidemic will cross the Indian-Pakistani border.
One of the paper’s authors, Dr. Ram Sasisekharan, responded to claims that his research was incorrect in an e-mail to Indian newspaper The Indian Express, by stating that the two virus strains analyzed were the only ones publicly available. He also asked Indian authorities to make available more information about the disease, including samples of the current strain affecting the country.
Whether the sharp increase in deaths is caused by poor prevention strategies and lack of vaccines to some areas or it can actually be attributed to the virus mutating into a deadlier form, Indian authorities still seem to keep the façade that everything is under control, even in the conditions of a death toll rising by the day in the nation.
Image Source: Indian Express