The Microbiology and Molecular Biology Department pioneered the collaborative studies of erstwhile RMRC (now NITM) Belagavi with the State Health authorities and Medica Colleges across the region and its activities helped transformation from Regional Centre of ICMR to the stature of a National Institute. It began with outbreak investigations, support to the Medical Colleges and Heath Surveillance Units across various Districts of Karnataka in identification and characterization of various etiological agents and played a major role in capacity building. Later it carried out several National level studies by networking with other ICMR institutes. NITM’s Microbiology Laboratory was the first in North Karnataka to start testing for COVID-19 and it provided the initial training and hand-holding to various other State and Academic Institutions in the region for RT-PCR testing.
In Traditional Medicines, the Department contributed to the overall activities of the Institute in molecular profiling of medicinally important plants that include generation of genetic fingerprints, identification of elite clones for production of bioactive, deciphering molecular mechanisms of action and devising genetic tools for correct identification/ differentiation of important species. The Molecular Biology laboratory started working on integrating Traditional Medicine with Modern Big-Data biology and Information Sciences by starting the Biomedical Informatics Centre which has focus on Herbal Informatics. This discipline provided hints on possible roles of phytocompounds in disease biology and helped design new therapies on one hand and helping in validation of traditional medicinal practices on the other. The domain of activities of the Department includes Microbiology and Molecular Biology of Infectious Diseases, Herbal Anti-Microbials, Molecular Mechanisms and assays, Cell Culture and Biotechnology, authenticity and quality of genuine medicinal plants/ingredients in formulations, etc. It also works on nutraceuticals against various chronic and lifestyle diseases, vector borne diseases and viral infections.
The Department includes BSL2 standard laboratory, bacteriology lab, molecular biology lab, animal cell culture facility, and a Bioinformatics center. The department is equipped with Real Time PCR thermocyclers, automated bacterial identification system, 96 well UV Vis spectrophotometer, Nano drop spectrophotometer, Type2 class B2 and A2 Biosafety cabinets, Gel documentation system, ultra centrifuge, fluorescent inverted microscope, etc. that are necessary for its domain of activities.
Demonstrated usefulness of cocoa in reducing the cardiotoxicity caused by Doxorubicin, a common anti-cancer chemotherapeutant in animal models. It is a potential nutraceutical / food supplement to improve quality of life of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
Defined extent of genetic & phytochemical variation in concentration of bioactive compounds (Gymnemagenin and Deacylgymnemic acid) of the widely acclaimed and commercially important anti-diabetic herb Gymnema sylvestre (Gurmar/Madhunashini) whereby upto 35 times variation was found. An ‘Elite clone’ KLP_13 is identified for ex-situ propagation/ commercial utilization.
Documented genetic & phytochemical variations in Saraca asoca, one of most highly traded medicinal plant in Western Ghats. Developed techniques to distinguish it from adulterants in crude drugs. It might be useful for conservation and QC.
Virtually identified potential leads against viral Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C virus and SARSCoV2 from Traditional medicine hints. Also elucidate the possible mechanism of action of selected traditional medicines against Diabetes mellitus, and neuro degenerative diseases using system biology approach.
Identified and evaluated the leads from TMs against cholera toxin neutralization and biofilm inhibition of Vibrio cholerae.
Identified first ever cholera outbreak in North Karnataka; subsequent outbreaks in various districts.
First to report Haitian variant of Vibrio cholerae with mutant cholera toxin from South India.
First reported Human Paracheovirus (HPeV) causing gastroenteritis in children in India. SalV infections too.
Established Shewanella algae as an etiological agent of childhood diarrhea.
Identified resurgence of Diphtheria in Karnataka and associated deaths. Policy brief submitted by ICMR.