| A doctor accompanying a central team checks a child suffering from acute encephalitis syndrome at Anugrah Narayan Medical College and Hospital in Gaya. Telegraph picture |
Patna, July 9: The Centre has finally approved Bihar’s demand of setting up two advanced virology laboratories at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), Muzaffarpur and Gaya-based Anugrah Narayan Medical College and Hospital (ANMCH) to study acute encephalitis sydrome.
The disease has killed hundreds of children in the state in the last few years.
Union health secretary-cum-director-general of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Delhi, Dr V.M. Katoch, who was in the state capital on Monday, said the memorandum of agreement for the project has been sent to the state government.
“The Union health ministry wants to extend all support to the state to tackle the disease that has been on the rampage for the past few years. While ICMR would fund the project, the state government would have to use its space and manpower. The Centre would provide all technical assistance. The state would need to make a detailed proposal based on which budget would be allocated,” said Katoch.
Dr Pradeep Das, director, ICMR’s state wing, Rajendra Medical Research Institute, said the state government would be asked to prepare a detailed estimate for the project.
“We would provide technical assistance and help establish the units. We have also invited Dr Milind Gore, who heads such a laboratory at Gorakhpur, to come and suggest ways to develop infrastructure for the project at the medical colleges,” said Das before adding that the ball was now in state health department’s court to ensure that the laboratories become functional at the earliest.
The laboratories would primarily be used to research on the syndrome but also to examine other viral maladies.
This year, over 250 children, suffering from an undiagnosed form of the disease, died at SKMCH, ANMCH and Patna Medical College and Hospital.
In the past five years, at least 1,000 children have died of the ailment that mostly breaks out during peak summer months and is reported be a fallout of severe malnutrition, heat and humidity.
Samples of blood and cerebro-spinal fluid of affected children have been sent to Rajendra Medical Research Institute, Patna, and National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, but the causative agent of the disease could not be diagnosed. NIV specified that the disease was not Japanese encephalitis, an ailment that struck hundreds of children in Gaya between September and October last year.
The state has been stressing that setting up the laboratories at medical colleges in the Tirhut and Magadh regions, which reported most number of acute encephalitis syndrome cases. “We have been demanding advanced laboratories at these places so that the disease is diagnosed and studied at the earliest. This would also help doctors treat patients better,” a health department officer said.