Global Virus Network (GVN) Centers of Excellence Contribute Expertise to Nipah Virus Outbreak in Kerala, India

In the wake of the outbreak, the Government of Kerala is fast-tracking the launch of the Institute of Advanced Virology, which will house a unit of the GVN

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, June 5, 2018: Several of the Global Virus Network’s (GVN) Centers of Excellence have been researching Nipah virus (NiV) and are currently contributing expertise to the outbreak in the Indian state of Kerala.  India’s latest deadly NiV outbreak began in early May.  The GVN represents 41 Centers of Excellence and 7 affiliates in 26 countries and comprises foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans.

“GVN members are providing scientific, clinical and epidemiological expertise in addition to reagents to laboratories in the field,” said Prof. Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of the GVN.  “Indian government agencies responding to the NiV outbreak have done a fantastic job implementing quarantine procedures and other effective forms of infection control.”

According to India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as of June 2, 2018, there are 19 reported patient cases, 18 of which were confirmed in the laboratory, and 17 of which are deceased. Clinical presentation of NiV ranges from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory infection and fatal encephalitis.  Death rates, as in this outbreak and the 2015 outbreak in the Philippines, can exceed 80%.

“There is a great need to advance the science in the study of Nipah virus,” said Robert C. Gallo, MD, who is Co-Founder and International Scientific Advisor of the GVN and The Homer & Martha Gudeslky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder and Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence.  “Currently, there is no human or animal treatment or vaccine.  GVN members look forward to working with organizations like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to quickly advance effective therapeutics and vaccine candidates.”

“A targeted recombinant human monoclonal antibody therapy, which is in the process of being brought to Kerala, has proven to be effective in animal models and has passed a Phase I clinical trial,” said Benhur Lee, MD, Professor, Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, a Global Virus Network (GVN) Center of Excellence.  “Further, there are several forms of recombinant vaccines proven to be effective in animal models.  We, and other members of the GVN, look forward to working with local and international organizations to advance the science.”

NiV was first detected during a major infectious disease outbreak in Malaysia in 1998-9 and named after the Sungai Nipah village on the banks of the Nipah River in Malaysia. Studies from past human infection outbreaks in Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines, show that the virus can be transmitted to humans by three different routes: 1) from bats to humans who are in contact with virus-contaminated material (e.g., date palm sap); 2) from intermediate hosts such as pigs and horses; and, 3) from infected humans.

“We need to better understand what is causing Nipah virus spillover from animals and the exact transmission route for the index of human cases so that we can prevent future outbreaks,” said Linfa Wang, PhD, Professor & Director, Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, a Center of Excellence applicant of the GVN.  “There are potential unknown intermediate and amplifying hosts in different ecological, social, cultural and farming settings that we need to identify.  We can also help develop rapid diagnostic tests for developing nations and provide education guidelines and technical guidance.”

Since the outbreak, the Government of Kerala announced that it will fast-track the founding of Kerala’s Institute of Advanced Virology (IAV) at the Life Sciences Park at Thonnakkal. IAV, which aims to open in December, will house a unit of the GVN.  IAV will comprise eight laboratories for advanced research in clinical virology, viral diagnostics, viral vaccines, anti-viral drug research, viral applications, viral epidemiology, vector dynamics, virus genomics, bioinformatics and general virology.

“We are pleased to be working with the government of Kerala in founding the IAV,” said MV Pillai, MD, Clinical Professor of Oncology, Thomas Jefferson University and a Senior Advisor to the GVN.  “Through IAV, the GVN will bring world-class expertise to the state of Kerala, so that Kerala can begin to address its own epidemics, such as this Nipah virus outbreak, and start to contribute to virology at an international level.”

The GVN is a global authority and resource for the identification and investigation, interpretation and explanation, control and suppression, of viral diseases posing threats to mankind.  It enhances the international capacity for reactive, proactive and interactive activities that address mankind-threatening viruses and addresses a global need for coordinated virology training through scholarly exchange programs for recruiting and training young scientists in medical virology.  The GVN also serves as a resource to governments and international organizations seeking advice about viral disease threats, prevention or response strategies, and GVN advocates for research and training on virus infections and their many disease manifestations.

The GVN, in partnership with the Fondation Mérieux (FM) and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo), will convene the 10th International Global Virus Network Meeting on Eradication and Control of (Re-)Emerging Viruses in Annecy, France November 28-30. More information can be found at