Regional Level Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) at ICMR-Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC), Bhubaneswar is a public health virology laboratory setup funded by the Department of Health Research, MoHFW, Government of India (https://dhr.gov.in/schemes/establishment-network-laboratories-managing-epidemics-and-natural-calamities).
This public health virology laboratory focusses on diagnosis and research pertaining to viral etiologies as well as other pathogens of public health importance. The Viral Diagnostic Laboratory (Grade I) of Biosafety Level-2 was established in the year 2010 as a part of ICMR Virology network laboratories to create viral diagnostic capacity which was lacking in many parts of the country & to enhance research activities on important viral diseases in this region. During the Pandemic Influenza A/H1N1/2009 the virology laboratory setup acted as the regional reference laboratory for the state of Odisha. Subsequently, in the year 2017, the Regional Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) was set up at ICMR-RMRC, Bhubaneswar under the Department of Health Research (DHR) funded scheme titled “Setting up of nation-wide network of laboratories for managing epidemics and national calamities”.
Over the years, the regional VRDL has contributed to multiple outbreak investigations in the state of Odisha and surrounding regions and has provided laboratory support for strengthening of surveillance for vaccine preventable diseases. This includes the Measles Rubella laboratory surveillance under WHO which was initiated in 2019. The regional VRDL at ICMR-RMRC, Bhubaneswar provides laboratory support for serology and molecular testing for samples referred through the WHO fever and rash surveillance from the state of Odisha which has 30 different districts. The laboratory has also been included in the laboratory surveillance network for diphtheria and pertussis (DPT) in the year 2022.
Other major areas of focus for the regional VRDL are respiratory virus surveillance and arboviral disease surveillance. It contributes data on Influenza to the WHO FluNet as well as data on other respiratory viral etiologies. The regional VRDL is also the designated nodal laboratory for arboviral disease surveillance for the state of Odisha and performs laboratory surveillance for Dengue, Chikungunya, Japanese Encephalitis as well as Zika Virus. The laboratory performs Dengue virus serotyping for characterisation of serotypes prevalent in particular regions and in particular years. The regional VRDL works very closely with the IDSP machinery in the state as well as the WHO state surveillance system to provide laboratory support and training for the detection and characterisation of viruses of public health importance.
The centre has initiated next generation sequencing (NGS) as a tool for undertaking studies on genomic epidemiology of pathogens. The next generation sequencing facility is currently contributing SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance data to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG). The centre has ably supported the public health infrastructure in the state of Odisha and the eastern region of India during the COVID-19 pandemic with testing facilities as well as ensuring quality control and assurance and training to state level and district level laboratories which is the mandate of the regional VRDL. In addition, the regional VRDL has also contributed to the validation and verification of diagnostic accuracy of multiple real time PCR kits and nucleic acid extraction kits. The Regional VRDL has contributed to laboratory evidence, testing and diagnosis for many infectious disease outbreaks (Japanese Encephalitis, viral gastroenteritis, foodborne/waterborne hepatitis outbreaks, hand foot and mouth disease to name a few instances) in the state and region and continues to work closely with the public health machinery and programmes at state and national level for outbreak investigations and management.