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Establishment of a network of Laboratories for managing epidemics and Natural Calamities (VRDL)

Background of the scheme

During the past few years, India has witnessed several outbreaks of emerging/ re-emerging viral infections. Annual epidemics of Dengue, Chikungunya, Influenza, Rotavirus, Measles Rubella, Japanese encephalitis etc. are reported from all parts of the country. Besides, in the past two decades, India has witnessed acute outbreaks or threats of infiltration of new or exotic viruses such as Nipah virus (2001; 2007 & 2018); SARS-CoV (2003); Avian Influenza H5N1 (2006); ECSA strain of chikungunya (2006); pandemic influenza (2009); Ebola virus (2013); Zika virus (2016). Yellow fever virus and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-coronavirus) are the other potential viral agents which pose a serious threat to the country.

Vision & Mission

Realizing the high risk faced by the country due to emerging/re-emerging viral infections and limited capacity for timely detection of such viruses, the Department of Health Research (DHR)/Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) took a far sighted decision of enhancing the country’s capacity for early identification and diagnosis of all viral infections of public health importance. This initiative of DHR/ICMR has been rolled out on approval of the VRDL Scheme by the Union Cabinet wherein it was envisaged to set up 160 Virus Research & Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDLs) in most of the Government Medical Colleges of the country in 12th Plan Period (2012-2017). The target was then scaled down to establishment of 125 VRDLs during 14th finance commission period.

Status of the Scheme

These Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratories are established in a three tier mode, viz., Regional, State and Medical College Level. These laboratories are having different biosafety level which is shown in the below picture:

Till date Department of Health Research have funded 105 Viral Research & Diagnostic Laboratories (9 Regional Level; 22 State Level VRDLs and 74 Medical College Level VRDLs). Out of which 85 VRDLs are functional and reporting necessary data regularly.

Two resource centres/ support structures have been identified for the network in order to build the capacity of VRDLs – National Institute of Virology, Pune and National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai. Both the resource centres have played a significant role in upbringing the VRDLs to a great level of diagnosis.These VRDLs help to cover the entire country for timely diagnosis/identification of viruses during outbreaks of epidemics, generation of data about viral diseases for facilitating quick deployment of adequate resources and measures to save the human lives during outbreaks.

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Funding Norms

Functions of VRDLs

> Officials of the VRDL scheme

> Major VRDL Activities during 2019-20

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