Calcutta, Nov. 3: With the country still in search of an indigenous vaccine to combat cholera, the central body overseeing management of the disease has decided to bring one in from Vietnam to fight the menace.
The city-based National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases will first sample the vaccine on people in some Calcutta slums. An estimated 1.2 lakh people die of cholera in the country every year, institute sources said.
“The oral vaccine — known as Wholesale Killed Vaccine with or without ‘B’ Sub-unit — is manufactured in Vietnam and has worked well among residents of that country. It will come to us through the international Vaccine Institute in Korea. We will carry out a ‘disease burden study’ with it in some Calcutta slums for one year, this is a pre-requisite to any trial of cholera vaccine,” said institute director Sujit Kumar Bhattacharya.
The vaccine tops the list of priorities for Bengal as the Gangetic Delta is the “home of cholera”, he said. Bhattacharya is leaving on a three-day trip to Vietnam on November 19 to organise the import.
“We are all the more worried as 20 per cent of patients admitted to the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Beleghata and the Satyabala Infectious Diseases Hospital in Howrah with symptoms of diarrhoea and other enteric diseases have shown the presence of the killer germ,” Bhattacharya added.
The government has already said that it wants to utilise the institute’s expertise to develop a vaccine for cholera.
“We welcome the institute’s initiative. We were very worried after we found cholera strains in outbreaks of enteric diseases in some wards of Barasat municipality, Howrah, Kalchini in Jalpaiguri and Diamond Harbour over the past two months,” said director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee.
While hunting for the vaccine, the institute had also come across one from the US — CVD-103-Hg-R. The choice was rejected after it was found that it had failed a field trial in Indonesia three years ago.
The institute’s officials said the earlier vaccine administered by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and other civic bodies across Bengal was withdrawn about three decades ago as the cholera germ became resistant to it.
The institute is also working on its own vaccine — VA-1.3 — which is being experimented on human beings over the past year.
To introduce the imported cholera vaccine, there should be transfer of technology within a year. “Otherwise, it would be unethical for an institute in India to launch trials of a vaccine brought from a foreign country,” the director said.