List of rare diseases in India

Kyasanur Forest Disease

Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), also referred to as monkey fever is an infectious bleeding disease in monkey and human caused by a highly pathogenic virus called KFD virus (KFDV). KFDV is of zoonotic origin (originating from animals) and it is transmitted primarily by infective tick, Haemaphysalis spinigera. Rodents, shrews, monkeys and birds upon tick bite become reservoir for this virus. KFDV's common targets among monkeys are langur (Semnopithecus entellus, earlier classified Presbytis entellus) and bonnet monkey (Macaca radiata). A high number of these monkeys' death was seen in the Kyasanur Forest region of Shimoga District of Karnataka State in southern India in 1955. The first epidemic season of KFD in human was observed in Jan - May, 1956 when four villages were affected. In 1957, KFD spread to more than 20 villages and by 2003 it had affected more than 70 villages in four districts adjacent to Shimoga in western Karnataka.

Figure 1. Distribution of KFD in the state of Karnataka in India. Image is modified from ICMR publication*.

H. spinigera tick is widely distributed in tropical forests of peninsular India and Sri Lanka. In 1957 KFDV was isolated from this tick, the primary vector, and later in sixteen other tick species as well. Apart from ticks, KFDV has also been isolated from certain species of mammals including human. Virulence of KFDV became obvious when numerous infections were reported in laboratory and field personnel who were directly dealing with KFD outbreak. This led to suspension of work with KFDV until an appropriate Biosafety Level-3 laboratory (the level of the biocontainment precautions required to handle pathogens in an enclosed facility) was built at the National Institute of Virology in Pune, India in 2004. However, KFDV is ranked as a high risk category pathogen requiring Biosafety Level-4 handling. This virus belongs to the family of Flaviviridae and is about 45 nm in diameter, enveloped spherical virion particle, and the genome is made of single-stranded, positive sense RNA.


Figure 2. Life cycle of KFDV vector tick, Haemaphysalis spinigera. Image is modified from ICMR publication*.

Deforestation, subsequent cattle grazing in those areas and the...

Spearheaded by National Institute of Virology at Pune in India, a vaccine has been made available since 1966. Formalin inactivated KFDV vaccine is prepared by growing the virus in chick embryo fibroblast cells by employing modern cell culture techniques. This vaccine is currently used in the endemic areas of KFD. Over 50 thousand doses of KFDV vaccine are administered annually. Despite this prophylactic effort, reports of large numbers of KFD cases from Karnataka highlights a need for a fresh look into vaccine preparation as well as post-production vaccine handling and overall disease management protocols. Though KFD is still an epidemic that threatens periodically, identification of KFDV and development of a largely effective vaccine, is in itself considered to be a success story in Indian science scenario.

References and further readings


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