Monday, August 14, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Diagnostic kit for rabies being developed
From Surbhi Bhalla

LUDHIANA, Aug 13 — Rabies! The name itself makes people fearful. It is a fatal disease which affects farm animals as well as human beings. Since this disease cannot be cured, the diagnosis at the earliest is mandatory to save the human or animal by post-exposure vaccination.

Rabies is enzootic in India and due to lack of diagnostic facilities at the doorstep of the dairy farmers and absence of an indigenously developed diagnostic kit that could be employed under Indian conditions, failure in the timely detection of rabies in pets, dairy animals and stray dogs leads to huge financial losses to the state as well as to the dairy farmers.

It is the need of the hour to develop a diagnostic kit indigenously, that should be comparable in sensitivity with other latest diagnostic techniques and that can be employed in the field. This is being done by Dr Charan Kamal Singh, veterinary pathologist, Punjab Agricultural University. His team includes two research associates, Dr V.S. Senthil and Dr Savita.

Dr Singh, an authority on rabies, is presently working on the production of a diagnostic kit for rabies as principal Investigator of a research project sponsored by Indian Council of Agricultural Research.The project is ‘’Development of diagnostic kit for rabies and its comparison with the latest rabies diagnostic techniques.’’

This shall be the first diagnostic kit on rabies in India and among the very few that have been developed by Indian workers till date. Dr Singh has been thoroughly trained for the subject. He received his training from the National Institute of Immunology New Delhi, Central Research Institute, Kasauli and National Institute of Communicable diseases,AIIMS.

The Rabies Diagnosis Laboratory of Dr Singh is one of its kind Punjab. This is because of the requirement of highly sophisticated equipment and specially trained scientists for this specialized job. Since this facility so far has been available at the Ludhiana Laboratory of the Punjab Agricultural University, primarily due to the technical input of Dr Charan Kamal Singh and the efforts of other colleagues, the average 100 cases that are received at PAU, Ludhiana do not represent the figures for Punjab. Suspected cases of rabies, that are presently tested by employing Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Mice Inoculation Test, Counter Immuno-Electrophoresis and special staining of Brain Tissue Impression Smears are primarily submitted from Ludhiana and the surrounding areas.

When this diagnostic kit is made available at the district headquarters, it is expected that many animals suspected of rabies shall be tested by employing the kit and help in ascertaining the actual prevalence of rabies in Punjab.

The main objectives for developing the kit are to collect the requisite materials from the animals suspected of suffering from rabies and to diagnose rabies from various animal tissues collected from the field. This kit can also be applied in the field to carry out field trials.

The diagnostic kit on rabies shall contain the ELISA plates coated with antibodies against rabies virus. The kit shall be accompanied by positive (brain tissue suspension infected with rabies) and negative (normal brain tissue suspension) controls. By adding accompanying reagents, there will be colour development that can be seen by naked eyes. This diagnostic kit shall only require refrigeration facilities that are expected to exist at all polyclinics where this kit is to be used. Anybody could use the kit by following the accompanying instructions. The number of tests possible by this kit shall depend upon the shelf-life of the accompanying reagents and the frequency of the cases suspected for rabies that are tested.

According to Dr Senthil, a few chemicals which are essential for doing ELISA have been procured, while other materials like antigen, and antiserum are being produced in the laboratory.

The equipments available in the laboratory, at present are as per the recommendations of WHO and sponsored by ICAR. ICAR has provided a sum of Rs 15.5 lakhs for the accomplishment of this project.

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