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Launch Of India’s First Virology Course At Pun

Aiming to counter the threat posed by new virus-induced diseases like bird flu and Japanese encephalitis, a city-based institute has launched a course offering specialization in virology. The NIV and the Institute of // Biotechnology and Bioinformatics of the University of Pune would confer the degree jointly.

"There is a shortage of virologists to identify viruses and check their outbreak. The course is intended to provide qualified virologists to various fields," National Institute of Virology (NIV) course coordinator Rajendra Deolankar said. He said governmental health departments and hospitals do not have adequate "viral manpower" to identify and isolate various viruses.

Japanese encephalitis has claimed more than 600 lives in Uttar Pradesh in recent weeks. Recent natural disasters, including the July 26 deluge in Mumbai, highlight the need for trained virologists.

Moreover, the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), commonly known as bird flu, and Japanese encephalitis underlined the need for a dedicated course in virology.

The two-year Master of Science (M.Sc.) course in virology, launched by the NIV in July, is the first of its kind in the country. There has been no such specialized course in virology offered in elsewhere in the country and most of the researchers and experts in virology hailed from diverse disciplines like life sciences or chemistry.

The new degree course will teach students the ABC of viruses, the natural history of viral-induced diseases and train them to conduct advanced research. There is a growing demand for trained virologists from anti-viral drugs and vaccines manufacturing industries, medical colleges and referral hospitals.

Taught in the sylvan Microbial Containment Complex, the new course has enrolled 14 science graduates, selected out of the 400 students who took the national entrance test. The course comprises of four modules: hospital-based, f
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