Address of Shri Dhirubhai Mehta, President, Kasturba Health Society, delivered during the Inaugural function of 10th National Level Training Course on ‘Immunodiagnostics for infectious Diseases’ 
(February 2-7, 2004) at JBTDRC, MGIMS, Sevagram


I would like to join our Dean in extending a warm welcome to all of you to this Training Course on Immunodiagnostics for Infectious Diseases. Starting the first course in 1987, this is the tenth immunodiagnostics training course being organized by the Biochemistry Dept. and JBTDRC of this institute. We are indeed grateful to Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of S&T, Govt. of India   for their continuous support to us not only in conducting these courses but also for recognizing our institute as ‘National Referral Centre for Filariasis’ and for helping us to establish a ‘National Repository for Filariasis’ with animal models, parasite and sera banks and to maintain active research programme in this area.           

The recent emergence and reemergence of infectious diseases as a major source of morbidity and mortality has been recognized worldwide. Leading the list of these diseases are acute lower respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. The same is the story with vector-borne diseases such as malaria, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis etc., which are emerging or resurging due to variety of reasons that include insecticide and drug resistance, genetic changes in pathogens, demographic and societal changes in the affected population and lack of emphasis on preventive aspects.

India has a significant share in these health problems having 12-13 million suffering with tuberculosis, 53 million with lymphatic filariasis and about half a million with leprosy. Malaria was successfully eradicated from 3/4th of our country in 1960s. But now at least 300 million people suffer from acute malaria each year and at-least 2 million malarial cases are reported every year from endemic areas.

While these public health problems have been affecting the productivity and national development, the developmental activities as such are leaving their impact on environment and ecology favoring the spread of these diseases. Schemes implemented to provide water for drinking and irrigation purposes in rural areas are not backed up by good water management system, as a result of which more and more breeding places are created for vectors of diseases. Malaria is known to appear due to such creation of water pockets for breeding of mosquitoes. Similarly unplanned urbanization has created favorable conditions for the spread of filariasis to new areas. Places like Kanpur, Hardoi, Patna and several areas around Lucknow, which were non-endemic for filariasis till 1940 or 1950 have now become endemic. These facts emphasize the need to plan such strategies for developmental activities that could establish a harmonious equation between growth and environment.

There are also instances, when precious resources are diverted due to the influence of powerful advertising by commercial groups to implement measures of questionable validity in disease control. It has been reported in a column in ‘Daily Mirror Online (Colombo)’ that more than 2 million mosquito coils are sold daily in Sri Lanka, which amounts to spending about 3000 million rupees a year, a huge amount compared to the National budget of that country. It has been rightly pointed out that the effectiveness of coils as such is questionable in the light of warnings by Medical Scientists that coils can only make people fall asleep, while the mosquito carries its buzzing operations. The money could have been spent in   better ways like for campaigning to cleanup mosquito breeding sites or to use cost effective mosquito nets and to make public aware in these matters. 

At the same time efforts should be intensified to develop better diagnostics, vaccines and more effective therapeutic agents. Availability of simple and sensitive immunodiagnostic test is very important in the early diagnosis of these disorders for prompt therapeutic intervention and for successful control measures. It is not surprising that laboratory tests for infectious diseases is one of the fastest growing segments of the diagnostics market.

            Enzyme Immunoassay is a highly sensitive immunodiagnostic technique comparable with radioimmunoassay and can be adapted for field laboratories. I am glad to note that ELISA techniques developed for filariasis and tuberculosis at this institute are attracting other investigators to adapt similar systems for other diseases. I hope that this course will help you to catch up with latest developments and to sharpen your technical skills in this area. I am sure the lectures by different guest faculty invited for this course will reflect such advancements and applications to laboratory diagnosis.  I wish all success to the training course and my best wishes to all the participants.