News Obituaries

Obituary – Khorshed Pavri

The eminent Indian virologist, who was the first female director of the National Institute of Virology in Pune, India, died on December 27, 2021.

Khorshed Pavri, a renowned Indian virologist known for her contributions in research relating to HIV, enteric and hepatitis viruses, and various other viral diseases, died in Mumbai on Dec 27, 2021, at the age of 94 years.

She was the first woman director of India’s key virus research center, the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, India. The NIV is an important part of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The institute said, in a tweet, dated Dec 29, 2021, “Dr Khorshed Pavri, former Director of the ICMR-National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune (1978–88), breathed her last on Dec 27, 2021. The ICMR-NIV family fondly remembers her as a shining star. May her soul rest in peace”.

In media reports from India, specific details about the cause of Pavri’s death, her family members, education and initial professional career were not disclosed. However, social media sources tell us that Pavri, born in 1927, spent her school life in Sir C Navsari Zarthosti Madresa High School (Gujarat, India). Then she studied microbiology at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and then at the University of Mumbai.

As the director of NIV, Pavri started her work in 1978 and she remained in the position until 1988. Speaking to The Lancet Infectious Diseases after her death, John Johnson, a virologist at Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, said, “I admire [Pavri] not only for the science part but for having excelled as a woman and bringing home the message that women are at par with men even in the most challenging of conditions”. “Her loss is an unfathomable loss for the field of virology and the country as well”, he added.

Pavri’s key research interests included viruses that cause enteric and hepatic infections. She significantly contributed in deciphering the transmission of viruses responsible for hepatitis A, B, and E. Her studies also helped identify enteric viruses that cause fatal gastroenteritis in children. Commenting on Pavri’s research, Johnson said that her pioneering work in viral gastroenteritis has set the benchmark at various levels. “One thing that has fascinated me most is her curiosity into minute details of viral infections which most people would ignore”, Johnson pointed out, adding, “Her work did not just concentrate on basic virology, but had the core value of clinical outreach and application”.

In addition to viral hepatitis and gastroenteritis, Pavri also had an important role in establishing arbovirus-related clinical and epidemiological studies in India. She also helped in the development of various virology-related diagnostic techniques. “I know [Parvi] from her published work”, said Shahid Jameel, visiting professor at Ashoka University, Haryana, India. He told The Lancet Infectious Diseases that, apart from her contributions in the research of hepatitis A, B and E viruses, Pavri’s published work spans various other viruses, including HIV, Kyasanur Forest Disease virus, and dengue and Japanese encephalitis viruses. “Her leadership of NIV led it to develop diagnostic methodologies for several viruses, which made important contributions to viral disease management in India”, Jameel added.

Parvi did several studies on HIV/AIDS from 1986, and her work included isolation of the virus, among others. She also served as the project director of the ICMR Centre for AIDS Research and Control (CARC) in Mumbai, and worked as the editor of a quarterly journal called CARC Calling. She was involved in various Indian and international virology- related and scientific committees. Also, she was a member of the World AIDS foundation and WHO expert panel relating to viral diseases. In 2017, focusing on various aspects of HIV/AIDS (eg, origin, recent diagnostics and vaccines), Pavri wrote a book, Challenge of AIDS.

Speaking to The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Prasanta Kumar Maiti, retired professor and head of microbiology at Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research, Kolkata, India, said that the sad demise of Pavri is a great loss to the virology research in India. He held that, in India, the scientific community needs to remember Pavri for her various contributions; she had published more than 65 important research related publications in journals. According to Maiti, Pavri promoted virology in diagnostic, research and epidemiological fields in India. He commented that, the present Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDL) in India are indirect outcomes of Pavri’s research works. “Through [the VRDL], apart from recent COVID-19 pandemic investigations, surveillance on hepatitis B and C viruses, HIV, and dengue has [been] possible”, he added.

Sanjeet Bagcchi

Source: The Lancet

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