Avian Influenza
Indian government defends avian flu test procedures
Feb 22, 2006 - 4:08:37 PM

The Indian government Monday defended its testing procedures for avian flu, saying they were of international standards, even as it brushed aside suggestions that bias was involved.

"Concern has been expressed by certain quarters on the credibility of tests conducted at the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (at Bhopal). I wish to assure you that these tests are conducted as per international protocols," S.K. Bandopadhyaya, the animal husbandry commissioner in the agriculture ministry, told a news briefing here.

The laboratory had Saturday reported India's first bird flu cases from Navapur village in Maharashtra's Nandurbar district, some 300 km from state capital Mumbai.

The testing is conducted in four stages, explained Indian Council for Medical Research director general N.K. Ganguly.

"First there is the HA test, followed by the HI test, the RT-PCR test and the Real Time PCR test. The tests go to the next stage only if the previous one proves positive. There is no room for error," he asserted.

The samples that had tested positive for avian flu will now be sent to laboratories in either Hong Kong or Australia for validation, health ministry officials said.

The National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC) said Monday in a public notice:
"Multinational vaccine manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies, eager to sell their anti-flu drugs in India, are trying to project it as a case of bird flu."

Health Secretary P.K. Hota took strong exception to this, saying the industry should cooperate with government rather than create a scare.

"NECC should help us rather than make such statements. This would be prudent in its long-term interests," he told reporters.

Nearly 100,000 birds have been culled in a three km-radius around Navapur village and authorities say at least 300,000 will have to be put down in the area.

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