The Indian Council of Medical Research is the national apex body which develops strategies for biomedical research by identifying priority areas, formulating research programmes and operationalizing these research programmes through grant of financial aid to research institutes, medical colleges and universities. Intramural research is conducted through its network of 21 research institutes/centres and 6 regional centres whereas for extramural research, grants in the form of Centres for Advanced Research, task force and ad hoc research projects and fellowships is provided to individual scientists/students. The Council has instituted several awards/prizes also for recognizing excellent research carried out in India by Indian biomedical scientists. Financial support is provided to research institutes/medical colleges for conducting seminars/symposia/workshops etc. The Council also brings out several publications in the biomedical field including a journal, the Indian Journal of Medical Research.
In the field of tuberculosis, basic, clinical and operational studies are being undertaken at the Councilís Tuberculosis Research Centre (TRC), Chennai. During the year, studies were conducted for surveillance of drug resistance in tuberculosis. Immunological studies to understand the potential role of natural killer cells in tuberculosis was carried out at TRC. A model centre for directly
observed treatment short-course (DOTS) implementation, tuberculosis control, training and research has been established by the TRC in collaboration with the Tamil Nadu State TB Programme. During the year, studies were carried out to identify the mode of involvement of private medical practitioners in the revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme and to assess the feasibility of the programme.
The Councilís Central JALMA Institute for Leprosy (CJIL), Agra is carrying out therapeutic trials on multidrug therapy for multibacillary leprosy. In a field study conducted by the National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai, the WHO design for leprosy elimination monitoring was tested. Immunological studies are also being undertaken at CJIL to study the immune status of leprosy patients.
The National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Calcutta is collaborating with Japanese International Co-operative Agency for surveillance of emerging diarrhoeal pathogens and management of diarrhoea. Studies have been undertaken to understand the molecular biology of Vibrio cholerae and V.parahaemolyticus. Investigation of the diarrhoeal outbreak in the cyclone affected areas of Orissa state and molecular epidemiological studies were undertaken.
New technologies are being introduced by the Council for malaria control under the National Anti-Malaria Programme. Under the integrated vector control project research activities were carried out for evaluation of new antimalarial drugs, diagnostic kits, insecticides and repellents, and for epidemic investigations and bio-environmental methods for malaria control. Geographical information system has been used to map the distribution of Anopheles dirus in India. Studies are ongoing on artemisinin, an antimalarial principle isolated from Artemisia annua. Rapid methods for estimation of prevalence of bancroftian filariasis and its mapping by grid sampling technique is being validated by the Councilís Vector Control Research Centre at Pondicherry. Molecular probes are being developed for detection and diagnosis of the disease.
The ICMRís National AIDS Research Institute at Pune is involved in high level research on various aspects of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Priority has been given to immunological and virological studies for development of vaccine and diagnostic tests, drug development and generation of reagents and virus repositories for use in HIV research. Socio-behavioural studies on womenís education, awareness, reproductive health and treatment seeking behaviour were also conducted in different parts of the country besides epidemiological surveys for finding out the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
Other viral diseases which received high priority under the Councilís research programmes include Japanese encephalitis, poliomyelitis and hepatitis.
The ICMR continued to place significant emphasis on research in the field of reproductive health. Several new initiatives have been launched in the areas of family planning/contraception, safe motherhood, abortions, reproductive tract infections/sexually transmitted diseases, adolescent health and operationalising the available technologies. Studies are ongoing for developing antifertility vaccines for the male and female and on intranasal male contraceptive at the Councilís Institute for Research in Reproduction (IRR) at Mumbai. At the request of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, the Council initiated two studies Ė one to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of a pregnancy detection kit and the feasibility of using it in rural/urban slum areas and the other for assessment of vaccine wastage during pulse polio immunization programme. A study has been undertaken for involving the practitioners of Indian systems of medicine in the delivery of reproductive and child health services in rural areas.
It is proposed to initiate a programme on neonatal mortality and home-based management of sick neonates in the near future.
Nutrition related problems continue to be widely prevalent in the country despite many programmes being implemented by the Government of India. The Council has identified priority areas for research such as development of nutrition surveillance system, biochemical tests for detection of micronutrient deficiencies, identification of foods rich in micronutrients etc. Besides these, surveys were conducted by the Councilís National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau on the nutrition status of tribal populations living in various backward areas and on adolescents and the aged. A hospital-based study in preschool children showed that serum transferrin receptor level is a better indicator than haemoglobin level for assessing iron status in anaemia. Studies were also conducted for investigation of antimutagenic properties of some medicinal plants. A study undertaken to establish the efficacy of the obese rat model has shown that it can be effectively used to study xenobiotic metabolism.
Environmental and Occupational Health
Studies in the field of environmental and occupational health were conducted at the Councilís National Institute of Occupational Health at Ahmedabad and its regional centres at Bangalore and Calcutta. Air pollution due to vehicular traffic was studied in various cities of Gujarat state and in Bangalore whereas a method for testing the toxicity of industrial effluents is being developed. Assessment of adverse health effects on workers engaged in various industries such as chemical, automobile, tobacco, news-paper, dyes and pesticides is being done.
The aim of research in the field of non-communicable diseases ongoing at the Council is to identify risk factors, their prevention and control. In the field of oncology studies continued to provide data on occurrence of various types of cancers such as cervical, oral and breast cancers. The National Cancer Registry Programme continued to collect, analyse and interpret data and conduct epidemiological studies on cancers.
Streptococcal infections and rheumatic heart disease has been identified as a nationally relevant area under the Jai Vigyan Mission mode. Studies have been initiated on the epidemiology and management of glaucoma.
At the ICMRís Regional Medical Research Centre at Dibrugarh, survey of tobacco and other substance abuse in the north-east region was undertaken. Another study was conducted on the socio-demographic and behavioural aspects of drug addicts in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
In the field of haematology, basic, clinical and epidemiological studies were continued on various types of haemoglobinopathies, bleeding and thrombotic disorders, blood transfusion, bone marrow transplantation and blood disorders among tribal populations in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.
Basic Medical Sciences
Studies were carried out on breast cancer, oncogenes in premalignant and malignant prostate enlargement, experimental model of Indian childhood cirrhosis and guinea pig model for vitiligo at the Councilís Institute of Pathology at New Delhi.
A study was supported at the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow on toxicological and immunotoxicological potential of commonly used plastics. Another study was conducted for synthesizing antiasthmatic/antiallergic agents at the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow. Role of lipoproteins as risk factors in coronary, peripheral and cerebral atherosclerosis was studied at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at New Delhi.
The Council continued studies on various plants/plant products such as (Pterocarpus marsupium (Vijaysar), Picrorrhiza kurroa, Terminalia chebula, Centella asiatica, Azadirachta indica etc. Two Centres for Advanced Research have been initiated for clinical pharmacology and drug development at Mumbai and Lucknow respectively.
Publication, Information and Communication
The Council continued to publish its periodicals, the Indian Journal of Medical Research, ICMR Bulletin, ICMR Patrika and the Annual Report in English and Hindi. For dissemination of health information, popular lectures were organised by the Council and its Institutes/Centres in addition to open houses /seminar /symposia etc. The Council participated in the Swadeshi Vigyan Mela in February 2000 and in book fairs in August 1999 and February 2000. A Bioinformatics Centre has been set up in the Council in June 1999 by expanding the activities of the existing Integrated Research Information System (IRIS).