Prof. V Ravi
The need for a separate Department of Neurovirology was felt by NIMHANS in the early 1980’s since a large number of patients with acute viral encephalitis were being treated at the hospital. Dr. Carleton Gajdusek, Nobel Laureate in Virology who visited NIMHANS in 1982 had suggested that the institute invest in a separate Department of Neurovirology to cater to the diagnostic and research needs of NIMHANS. Accordingly, the Academic Council of NIMHANS approved the creation of a separate Department of Neurovirology in 1982. The Department of Neurovirology was subsequently started under the able guidance of Dr G. Narayan Reddy, Director, NIMHANS in January 1985 by recruiting a Lecturer, Dr V. Ravi. The Department was however officially declared open on 31st March 1986 by Dr. Baruch Blumberg, a Noble Laureate in Virology.
Dr A. Chandramuki, Head of Department of Microbiology, officiated as the Head of the department of Neurovirology until 1996, when Dr V. Ravi took charge as the Head of the department. Presently, the department has three more faculty members; Dr Madhusudhana SN, Professor, Dr Anita Desai, Additional Professor and Dr Reeta Mani, Assistant Professor.
The department of Neurovirology has completed more than 25 years of relentless service to humanity. Since its inception in 1986, it has expanded and grown in all aspects of diagnosis, man power development, teaching and training, and basic and applied research. It has contributed significantly in all these areas including public health aspects. Its role in the present and past epidemics of viral encephalitis and H1N1 Influenza is commendable.
The department of Neurovirology was the first laboratory in NIMHANS to obtain NABL accreditation for HIV and other diagnostic services. Every year more than 2000 samples are tested for viruses causing infections of the central nervous system. The Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre for HIV (ICTC) is a part of the department which offers training, diagnosis and counselling of HIV patients. It also undertakes HIV viral load and diagnosis of HIV in infants (EID). It is a National Reference Laboratory for HIV under NACO. It is an apex laboratory under NVBDCP for surveillance of JE, Dengue and Chikungunya and a WHO Collaborating centre for reference and research on Rabies and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) diagnosis.
The Department of Neurovirology provides a range of diagnostic services for variety of viral infections of the human nervous system. The type of routine diagnostic services provided at the department include (i) detection of anti-viral antibodies, (ii) detection of viral antigens, (iii) isolation of viruses and (iv) detection of viral nucleic acids by Polymerase chain reaction (PCR). These services are provided for the following viruses - Japanese encephalitis virus, Dengue, Chikungunya, Rabies virus, Herpes simplex virus, Measles virus, Enteroviruses, JC virus, Influenza and Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV). One of the major initiatives and achievement is the accreditation of all diagnostic services of the department in 2012, by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), an autonomous body under the aegis of Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.
The faculty from the department also offer consultation on occupational exposure to HIV and post-exposure prophylaxis, and Rabies pre and post exposure prophylaxis.
HIV services: The department provides a range of services in the area of HIV/AIDS. It is recognised as a Integrated counseling and testing centre (ICTC) for diagnosis of HIV infection by National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), Govt. of India since 1992 and since the year 2000 the Department has been designated as one of the 12 National Reference Laboratories for HIV/AIDS. The range of HIV services rendered by the department include the following; (i) Pre and Post-test counseling for HIV diagnosis, (ii) voluntary confidential testing for HIV, (iii) CD4 testing for HIV infected individuals, (iv) Sentinel surveillance for HIV testing for the state of Karnataka (v) Evaluation of HIV diagnostic kits (NRL on Q), (vi) External Quality Assurance programme for HIV testing laboratories in the state of Karnataka (vii) training of medical officers, counselors, nurses and laboratory technicians of the state of Karnataka in HIV testing and counseling, (viii) needle stick injury management program for NIMHANS hospital staff and (ix) Early Infant Diagnosis testing by PCR, (x) Viral load testing for HIV.
Estimation of viral load in HIV infected patients and Diagnosis of HIV infection in infants less than18 months of age by HIV DNA PCR (Early Infant diagnosis) have been introduced recently. This national program is carried out under funding from NACO, Ministry of Health and Family welfare, Govt. of India. The Department is also a member of the Consortium of National Reference laboratories on Quality (NRL on Q) under NACO for evaluation of HIV, HBV and HCV diagnostic kits to be used in the country.