India will have to face the challenge of A(H1N1) influenza for one more year since the flu is now surfacing in new places in the country, V.M. Katoch, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General, said here on Saturday.

“In places where swine flu cases were already reported, it has been contained. But we found that it is spreading to new pockets and hence we face the challenge for one more year. It is like a flood and will take some time to recede,” he observed.

Dr. Katoch, also the Secretary to the Department of Health Research, Government of India, informed that indigenous testing kits and vaccines to tackle A(H1N1) influenza would soon be available in the country.

“The ICMR is facilitating that process. Four types of indigenous testing kits will be available in the market in two to three months. It will be at least 25 per cent cheaper than what we have been purchasing from abroad now,” he told presspersons on the sidelines of the inauguration of a national conference on biotechnology organised by the Madurai Kamaraj University.

Stating that India had shown to the world that it could give them stiff competition by coming out with its indigenously developed products, the ICMR chief said five companies had come forward to develop a vaccine for A(H1N1) flu, which was affecting people in many States.

Genetically modified mosquitoes

Replying to a question on India’s position on releasing Genetically Modified (GM) mosquitoes to control vector-borne diseases, Dr. Katoch said that GM mosquito mechanism could only be a “temporary intervention” taking the size of the country into account.

“GM mosquito is a policy issue and the Government of India will be cautious to ensure that the natural ecosystem will not get affected. However, from the safety point of view and from whatever data I had looked into, there is nothing adverse so far,” he pointed out.

Dr. Katoch stated he was of the opinion that a dispassionate study of GM mosquito technology was necessary to determine whether it was really harmful or not and whether it could pose a potential hazard.

R. Karpaga Kumaravel, Vice-Chancellor, Madurai Kamaraj University also spoke to the media and said that several initiatives would be taken to strengthen the teaching and infrastructure facilities in the varsity so as to make the year 2010 an “eventful year”.