National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE), Chennai, Tamil Nadu

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The National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE) was born out of a merger between the Central JALMA Institute for Leprosy (CJIL Field Unit, Avadi) and the Institute for Research in Medical Statistics (IRMS), Chennai on July 2nd 1999. NIE’s areas of research cover interventional studies, disease modelling, health systems research, evaluation of health schemes and disease control programmes, issues of statistical methodology, epidemiological investigations and clinical trials of traditional remedies.

NIE is the WHO Collaborating Centre for Epidemiology of Leprosy, and has been identified by the National Aids Control Organization (NACO) as a Technical Resource Group for Epidemiology of HIV. In the academic field, NIE’s Masters in Applied Epidemiology is recognized by the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (Deemed University), Thiruvananthapuram, and its PhD programs in epidemiology and biostatistics are recognized by the University of Madras.

The field practice area of NIE in Tiruvallur district, Tamil Nadu is where NIE conducted a controlled, double blind, randomized, prophylactic leprosy vaccine trial from 1991 to 1993. A population of about 300,000 residing in 148 panchayats comprising 264 contiguous villages from Chengelpet district (presently known as Tiruvallur) was screened by house to house examination for leprosy. 171,400 volunteers who were free from leprosy were vaccinated with one of four vaccines (BCG, BCG + killed M. leprae, Mycobacterium w and ICRC) or placebo. The population was followed up thrice during 1993-95, 1997-98 and 1999-2000 to identify new cases of leprosy.

As NIE has a long association with this community and has baseline information for the population, this area became the field practice area. Current activities in the field practice area include a study on risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (includes both survey and lab components), and a leprosy endemicity study.

NIE is planning to expand its community-based cohort studies into both urban and rural areas, as the present field practice area is urbanizing rapidly. The Tamil Nadu state government is collaborating with NIE to establish a model rural health research unit in Dharmapuri. NIE is also seeking to set up a clinical trials unit for vaccine trials, and a Centre for Excellence in Epidemiology, Bio-ethics, Bio-statistics, and Bio-Informatics.

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