The Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad launched indigenously technologies developed by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) Hyderabad, in New Delhi on Feb 20. These include three different kits for detection of food borne pathogens, diagnosing iron deficiency anaemia and diagnosing Vitamin-A deficiency.
Azad said that the kit for detection of food borne pathogens will be very useful to determine the causes of outbreaks of food poisoning and food borne common infections caused by eating of contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, dairy products as well as vegetables, contaminated with water borne infections. The Minister highlighted that this easy, user friendly and rapid detection system will be of immense use not only to the Food Safety Authority of India but also to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, which reports on food poisoning outbreaks and to diagnostic laboratories in Government as well private sector.
Studies show that about 13% of deaths among children of less than five years of age are due to diarrhoea, which is caused essentially due to consumption of contaminated food/water. The kits developed by NIN in collaboration with Bioserve Biotechnologies are indigenous, less time consuming and cost 1/3rd of the imported kits costs. The rapid testing of food samples for microbiological contamination will reduce the morbidity and mortality in the society. Use of the kits by the food industry will not only help domestic consumers in having safe food but also helps reducing export rejections on account of microbiological contamination.
The second kit launched by the Health Minister estimates the quantity of ferritin and helps in diagnosing iron deficiency anaemia individually as well as for mass level screening. Shri Azad said that this test will be useful to decide supplementation of iron according to the need and also to avoid iron dosing in conditions where iron accumulates in the body; for instance due to repeated blood transfusions in cases of Thalassemia, Haemophilia and others. He said that the present estimates of anaemia due to iron deficiency in different groups vary widely from 5% to 50%. Besides this variation, there are large numbers of adolescent boys and girls who are anaemic. As per National Family Health Survey, 56% of girls and 30% of boys in 10-19 years are anaemic, the Minister noted.
In India anaemia control strategies are based on haemoglobin levels. However, estimation of serum ferritin has been found to be the specific diagnostic tool for early detection of iron deficiency leading to anaemia. Therefore a ferritin test helps to diagnose with certainty and the extent of iron deficiency in the body thus avoiding unnecessary iron supplementation. It is based on ELISA principle and is specific, very accurate, cost effective and convenient method comparable to other commercially available kits. This technology is useful for treating physicians, policy makers, Programme Managers at Central, State and District level for formulation of appropriate intervention strategies and for monitoring the effect on these interventions.
Ghulam Nabi Azad launched the third kit for diagnosing Vitamin-A deficiency. The dried blood spot collection system for Plasma Vitamin-A estimation is a simple system that allows the blood to be collected on a special type of filter paper which can be stored for 7 days at room temperature and for several days at refrigerated temperature. It will be valuable for mass screening for deciding on Vitamin-A supplementation as and when required. It is a field friendly method for blood sample collection and transportation from remote areas to screen population for sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency. This system will reduce the inconvenience to children, cost of blood collection, storage and transportation associated with conventional vein puncture method of blood collection.
Azad said that Government already implemented programmes for overcoming problems of anaemia and vitamin- A deficiency. There is a renewed weekly iron and folic acid supplementation (WIFS) programme launched by the Health Ministry in January, 2013, to give iron supplementation to 13 crore young girls and boys to overcome the problem of anaemia. Also a national prophylaxis programme to prevent and control night blindness due to Vitamin A deficiency was first started in 1970, under which children aged 1 to 5 years are administered vitamin A at six monthly intervals. Currently, 30 million children in the country are receiving vitamin A supplementation under this programme, which is linked with DPT and oral polio under universal immunization to increase the coverage, he noted. The launching of new kits will help better implementation of the national programmes going on in these directions.
Speaking about the recent developments the Minister emphasised that last five years have been very productive. He highlighted some of the achievements in the area of health research like Asia’s first BSL IV Lab was established at NIV Pune; 22 Infectious Diseases Labs of BSL II and III levels have been set up and a total of 160 have been approved to be established by 2016-2017; 45 H1N1 labs have been set up within a year. He also stated that various diagnostic techniques have been launched in the last few months including the JE vaccine, Magnivisualiser for detecting cervical cancer, the thalassemia kit and strips for diabetes.
The Health Minister congratulated the scientists of National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad for developing these useful kits. He expressed happiness that during the last five months he has launched 7 new technologies from ICMR Institutions.