The National Institute of Virology at Alappuzha, still struggling to find its functional reliability for testing various viral diseases, will be scaled up in the coming months according to Health Minister K. K. Shylaja.
Besides, the State had also started a virology institute in Thiruvananthapuram under the Science and Technology department and a virology institute under ICMR has also been set up in Kozhikode.
However, none of them have the capability to take up work to meet the State's needs.
Lack of a reliable virus testing laboratory is a blot as the State has been witnessing new diseases for a decade now.
In the wake of the Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode last year, the existence of the Alappuzha institute at its present stature had been questioned several times. While steps have been taken to improve the facilities at Alappuzha, they have not become full-fledged, said the Minister.
The institute is designed to be a bio-safety level 3 establishment but it is not yet equipped for the same. The administrative sanction for the work at Alappuzha virology institute was received only last month, she said.
The Health Ministry has moved to expedite the work, she added.
A bio-safety level is a set of bio-containment precautions required to isolate dangerous biological agents in an enclosed laboratory facility.
Four types or levels of laboratory are certified based on the organisms which are handled there. Only a lab certified as BSL 4 is allowed to handle extremely dangerous pathogens, such as Ebola. An institute with BSL 1 works with less risky organisms. BSL 3 or 4 is required to handle the Nipah virus.
Approvals for upgrading Kozhikode institute to a level three was only has also been received. While the Thiruvananthapuram institute will be developed as a level-three institute, it is not yet fully functional.
There is a need for a level three institute but not every district needs to have one. Building a level 3 or 4 requires certain parameters to be followed, said Ms. Shylaja.