National Institute for Research in Tribal Health (NIRTH) formerly was known as Regional Medical Research Centre for Tribals (RMRCT) and started functioning in 1984, at Jabalpur. The centre continued functioning from Medical College till 1990 to address mainly to the study of the health and nutritional problems of the tribal populations, including nutritional disorders, common communicable diseases, environmental health problems, etc.
The institute focused its activities in the areas of tribal health research for more than 33 years in communicable and non-communicable disease, Genetic disorders and human resource development programme and in establishing strong linkage with State Health Department and private sector stakeholders in finding solutions to the regional health problems. Besides basic and applied research, translational research has been taken up in operational mode. Communicable diseases research programme includes studies on filariasis, malaria, tuberculosis, and diseases of viral origin. Non-communicable diseases include sickle cell diseases, hypertension glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency and Scabies. The Institute is WHO collaborative centre for the health of the indigenous population (WHO CC no. IND-111).
A field unit at Keylong in collaboration with Government of Himachal Pradesh has been established. A preliminary assessment of burden of disease at Lahul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh for improving health parameters and diseases with public health importance has been undertaken. An assessment was made among communicable and non-communicable diseases in the Regional Hospital, Keylong revealed Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI), Acute Diarrhoea Diseases (including gastroenteritis etc.) and ‘Others’ (not classified infections). The cases of Pneumonia, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Enteric Fever, Gonococcal infections, and Chickenpox are reported. Among non-communicable diseases Hypertension, Psychiatric disorder, Accidental injuries and Lung diseases are evident. Two Model Rural Health Research Units (MRHRU) at Datia in Madhya Pradesh and other in Chhattisgarh state are functioning and Construction of Building for Establishment of MRHRU at PHC, Badoni, and installation of equipment at District hospital, Datia is in under process Two scientists have been appointed at Datia. MRHRU Chhattisgarh site is to change from PHC Lakharam Block, Bilaspur to PHC Somni, District Rajnandgaon and Modified application for site change is awaited from Govt. of Chhattisgarh.
Besides this, the institute has initiated quite a number of promising research projects of public interest. Mention may be made of studies related to Tuberculosis and Malaria. Grade II virus research and diagnostic laboratory (VRDL) with BioSafety level 2 (BSL-2) is providing diagnosis using serological and molecular diagnosis, and conducting research on the viruses of public health importance at NIRTH since December 2011. Initially, the laboratory was providing the diagnosis for Influenza A H1N1pdm09 and dengue viruses; however, over the period other viruses are also added to the list. Now the laboratory is equipped to provide the molecular and serological diagnosis to 20 viral diseases of public health importance and conducts outbreak investigations, research on these viruses. The standard operating procedures and reagents recommended by resource centre of Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories network, WHO, Centre for Disease Control (CDC), USA, National Institute of Virology (NIV) and NVBDCP etc. are used for testing these samples.
The emerging and re-emerging viral infections resulting in hemorrhagic fevers are causing serious morbidity and high mortality in India. Most of these viruses are vector-borne and are capable of causing outbreaks of high magnitude. Viruses such as Dengue, Chikungunya, Kyasanur forest disease virus, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic Fever virus are detected in the country, and more recently Zika Virus too has marked its presence in the country. It is very important to diagnose these viruses in as early as possible to prevent them to cause serious outbreaks in public health. Dengue is an emerging problem in rural and tribal areas. The institute conducts studies on outbreaks and sporadic cases reported from tribal-dominated, difficult to reach regions.
The library at the institute continues to cater the documentation and information needs of the scientists, staff, and students of the institute as well as to other institutes like NSCB Medical College, Veterinary College, Home Science College, Rani Durgawati Vishwavidyalaya, etc. It also extends services to research personnel from other Universities/Institutes. The library is equipped with modern furniture, air-conditioners, compactors and display racks for display of latest arrivals, i.e. books and periodicals for its readers. At the moment total library collection is 4825. Further e-resource facility is provided to retrieve the full text of online articles and conduct specific searches relevant to the user from multiple publishers.
During the period, remarkable research contributions, publications in highly peered reviewed journals like The Lancet, Plos One, TMIH, IJMR etc was made.The institute is also not lagging behind in academic activities as many students are pursuing their PhD and also completed the M.Sc dissertation under the guidance of the scientists of the institute. The institute also organized different seminars, training and meetings in collaborations with Universities, Government organizations and eminent NGOs.
The institute is focussing its research interest towards cutting edge technology of developing transgenic mosquitoes for controlling vector-borne diseases. In PPP mode the institute is working towards demonstrating a malaria elimination strategy at Mandala district of Madhya Pradesh. Besides this, the institute is extending its research expertise in identifying the reason for high malaria and other diseases in various states of the country including Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Maharashtra in hard to reach insurgency-affected areas.