BHOPAL: Scientists at Indian Medical Council of Research (ICMR), Jabalpur, have reportedly detected variation in swine flu virus samples sent to their lab in last one month. Doctors fear the virus may mutate into a more deadly strain. 

Of 218 samples sent to them between January 1 and February 3, 78 have tested positive for Influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 virus which was the trigger for the flu pandemic in 2009, said experts. 

"Samples are being sent to National Institute of Virology (NIV) for further investigations. Virus isolated from throat swab samples of some patients has shown genetic mutation," said a medical officer at ICMR. 

Small mutations in virus's genetic make-up have been detected at two positions and the change is being monitoring, he said. 

As many as 44 people succumbed to the contagion since January till date, which is the largest-ever deaths reported from swine flu in MP so far. Hundreds of patients are battling for life at different ill-equipped government hospitals across the state. 

ICMR officials, however, refused to comment, citing it a sensitive matter and said research is underway. 

"I can't say anything right now. Our scientists are on the job. There's nothing to panic," said Dr Niru Singh, director ICMR Jabalpur. She said they are testing 50 to 60 samples every day. 

Pdm09 virus leads to respiratory disease, including nasal secretion, barking cough and a decreased appetite. Re-emergence of the virus causes generation of drug-resistant strains and antigenic shift, which can influence viral entry into cells and transmission. Dr Singh said patients are responding to treatment. No drug resistance has been reported so far. 

ICMR laboratory in charge Dr Pradeep Barde said priority is to diagnose samples sent to them from different hospitals. "We are testing samples and reporting it to hospitals. Research on variations and will take time," he said. 

Source: Times of India (Dated 12 Feb 2015)