The theme for the World Flu Day quiz competition was “Influenza: An Evolving Challenge”. The aim of the quiz competition was to create influenza awareness and its impact on public health. Ten groups of undergraduate or postgraduate students from various institutions such as Yenepoya Medical College (Mangalore), Kasturba Medical College (Mangalore), Manipal Institute of Virology (Manipal), Manipal College of Nursing (Manipal) participated in the quiz competition. The host Ms Kavitha Karunakaran along with the Quiz Masters Ms Prachi Malasane and Mr Arunava Choudhury held the proceedings of the quiz competition. The quiz was conducted in two exciting rounds in which the participants competed for nip and tuck, ultimately top scoring three winners were awarded prizes and certificates.
The exhilarating quiz competition was followed by an international webinar featuring guest lectures by distinguished scientists and investigators from across the globe. Dr Anitha J as moderator initiated the webinar by addressing the dignitaries, speakers and all the participants, briefing them about the theme and the significance of World Flu Day.
Dr Chiranjay Mukhopadhyay, Director, Manipal Institute of Virology, welcomed the guest and participants. He enlightened the audience about the historical background of “The Spanish flu”, the prevention and control of Influenza. In addition, he mentioned the collaborations of MIV with national and international organizations as part of an ongoing project. He also touched upon awareness programs that can enlighten the general public about the need for preventive measures with respect to the disease. After that, he welcomed the chief guest and speakers of the webinar.
The Keynote address was given by Dr Anand Venugopal, Chief Operating Officer, MAHE, Manipal, who addressed the participants, emphasizing the importance of influenza awareness programs and initiatives. He covered the aspects of surveillance, prevention, and treatment. He also portrayed the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and Influenza, as well as how the other diseases were neglected due to the current pandemic. He emphasized improving communication among clinicians and researchers to plan better strategies for diagnosis, treatment, and patient care.
The webinar’s featured presentations focused on influenza surveillance, epidemiology, control, and prevention of influenza. The first talk on “Influenza surveillance and pandemic preparedness” was delivered by Dr Chakshushmathi Gadhiyaram, Head, Pre-clinical R&D, Mynvax private Ltd. Bangalore. Dr Chakshushmathi elaborated on antigenic variability and the capacity of the influenza virus to evade the host immune system. She also emphasized centralized universal surveillance by WHO, which is helpful for the timely and effective prevention of disease burden.
The next speaker, Dr S. Nagarajan, Principal Scientist, ICAR-National Institute of High-security Animal Disease, Bhopal, delivered a talk on “Epidemiology of influenza viruses in animals and birds. Dr Nagarajan discussed the avian and swine influenza origin in the human population. He also provided insights into the genetic evolution of the various influenza viruses as well as the phylogenetic relationships of various influenza viruses isolated in India and neighbouring countries. He also discussed the recent outbreaks and the risk factors for transmission.
The talk on “Biologics to control influenza: what works and is it affordable?” was delivered by Prof. Dr Xavier Saelens, Principal investigator, VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology, Belgium. Dr Xavier emphasized alternative treatment strategies such as the use of convalescent serum and monoclonal antibodies to reduce the disease severity and hospitalization due to influenza. He gave insights about the monoclonal antibodies developed against a conserved region of influenza as a potential cost-effective therapy.
The final speaker of the day, Prof. Dr Raghavan Varadarajan, Professor, Molecular Biophysics Unit, IISc, Bangalore delivered a talk on “Design of improved vaccine formulations”. Dr Raghavan discussed the various Hemagglutinin-based candidate vaccines developed in collaboration with Mynvax Private Ltd. Bangalore.
Dr Piya Paul Mudgal, Associate Professor, Manipal Institute of Virology, MAHE, Manipal concluded the webinar by providing the final vote of thanks and Dr Anitha J, Assistant Professor, MIV, MAHE, being an excellent moderator throughout the program. The webinar was a great success with more than 160 participants. The participants’ feedback to the webinar was overwhelmingly positive, well-informative, scientifically rich, and timely. The participants across the globe found the sessions to be enlightening and relevant. They also expressed their appreciation for the manner in which the webinar was organized and delivered. Participants expressed an interest in seeing more of these webinars in the future.