Is swine flu going to be deadlier than before?

While the swine flu scare still keeps us on the edge, a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted by a team of Indian-origin scientists made it even more scarier. The study claimed that the flu virus that had claimed over 1,500 people and infected more than 27,000 people in India has acquired mutations that make it more dangerous than previously circulating strains of H1N1 influenza.

Should you be more fearful about swine flu?

We guess no. The reason being the National Institute of Virology on Thursday said there was no evidence to suggest that the swine flu virus in India may have mutated. The NIV works under the auspices of the Indian Council of Medical Research, the premier research organisation under the union health ministry.Official sources at the NIV in Pune said the genetic analysis of the H1N1 isolates from the present 2015 outbreak do not show any such mutations as mentioned in the MIT publication. They further more warned that the mutated virus could spread more readily than before.

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What makes the Indian scientists think otherwise?

The observation in the MIT report was based on gene sequence analysed for the H1N1 virus taken from a database and not from actual virus isolates from the current 2015 outbreak, the NIV sources said. Indian health experts also said the report needs to be studied thoroughly before being accepted. 'This is a new study. We need to go through it and research properly. It is important to know how they reached the conclusion. It will take at least one-two days to go through the study, only then I can comment on it,' S.K. Sharma, director health services under the Delhi government, told IANS.

What makes the study more controversial?

The findings, reported in the scientific journal Cell Host and Microbe, contradict previous reports from Indian health officials that the strain has not changed from the version of H1N1 that emerged in 2009 and has been circulating around the world ever since. Mutation is a permanent change of the nucleotide sequence of the genome of an organism, virus, or extra-chromosomal DNA or other genetic elements. The former dean of research at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), N K Mishra said it was important to study the MIT report before coming to any conclusion. 'It will be too early to comment now without going through the report properly,' he said.

A senior official of the health ministry also said the issue will be discussed with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) before coming to any conclusion.

With inputs from IANS

Image source: Getty Images

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