At least three more children suffering from respiratory diseases died at Kolkata’s hospitals on Friday and health experts said an immunological study of a hybrid of two types of adenovirus, detected in a large number of swab samples of sick children, was required to understand what was causing the severity and so many deaths.
According to ICMR-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, of the 1,708 samples tested between January 1 and March 9, 650 were positive for the adenovirus. The majority of the positive samples had a hybrid of type 3 and 7 of the virus.
Other viruses detected include influenza, rhinovirus and non-Covid coronavirus, said officials.
Three children died at the Dr BC Roy Post Graduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences between Thursday night and Friday afternoon. All of them were suffering from acute respiratory infection, doctors said.
Thirteen-month-old Shantanu Kirtania of Chinsurah, in Hooghly district, died at the hospital around 11.45pm on Thursday. Shantanu was admitted to the Kankurgachhi hospital on March 7 with fever, cough and respiratory distress.
Early on Friday, Ayan Mondal, a year and a half old, succumbed to lung infection. The child from Bongaon in North 24-Parganas district was admitted to the hospital on Saturday with complaints of high fever, persistent cough and breathing trouble. He was put on a ventilator, doctors said.
The third victim was a two-year-old boy from Thakurnagar in North 24-Parganas district. He was admitted to the hospital a few days back and died on Friday morning. Doctors said the kid was suffering from problems similar to the other two.
The current spell of viral infections has claimed the lives of a number of children across the state.
“A hybrid of adenovirus type 3 and 7 has been detected in the majority of the swab samples that tested positive for the virus since January. The hybrid type was detected earlier, too, but in much lesser percentage,” said Shanta Dutta, director of ICMR-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata.
Earlier, during the pre-Covid times, only 3 to 4 per cent of the total samples tested for respiratory viral diseases would have the hybrid of adenovirus type 3 and 7, she said.
Doctors say type 7 can cause severe disease.
“Usually, adenovirus is known to cause mild infections. But serotype 7 of the virus is one of the types associated with severe diseases like pneumonia,” said Chandramouli Bhattacharya, an infectious disease expert.
Dutta said the state health department should send blood samples for immunological studies for more detailed analysis of how the hybrid type was affecting the immune system of children.
“The state health department never takes our opinion or calls us for any meeting. They only send us swab samples for testing. In such public health crisis, when many deaths are reported, there is a need for better coordination among all agencies,” said Dutta.
“Immunological studies with blood samples from severe cases of adenovirus infection is necessary to understand the pathogenesis of the hybrid variant among children. Hence, better coordination is required among physicians and research scientists for addressing the issue with evidence-based outcomes.”
The Telegraph has reported several times that all ventilators at the BC Roy hospital, the biggest government-run referral hospital for children, have been pressed into service.
A senior official in the state health department said they were not sending blood samples for immunology studies at the moment.
“We have found out through sample surveys the types of viruses that are causing respiratory distress and are taking adequate measures. We have increased paediatric critical care facilities at hospitals in Kolkata and districts,” said the official.
Asked why the help of ICMR-NICED experts was not sought, he said the healthcare institutes run by the state health department were seeking help.
“These institutes are sending samples to ICMR-NICED. If they offer advice, we will definitely consider it,” said the official.