No disease has captured the satirical imagination of modern India like Dengue.
It has been used in popular songs “Sone ki Chidiya, Dengue, Malaria” From the motion picture Shanghai, used in dialogues in movies and provide good content to the budding stand up comics that have mushroomed all over India of late.
Dengue caused by Aedes Aegypti species is a dangerous condition and rampart urbanization and lack of planning has led to the disease spreading like wildfire in urban India.
In the past, we have covered various steps that can be tackled to manage the spread and growth of Dengue. We talked about insurance schemes that can help reduce the financial burden for families affected by Dengue and about how disease surveillance programs can help to reduce the spread of Dengue.
Today we want to focus on efforts in the scientific world to curb and manage the spread of Dengue.
In Maharashtra, the Gangabishan Bhikulal Trading Company (GBIT) has been working on leveraging genetics to handle the mosquito population responsible for the spread of Dengue. In 2008 they entered into an agreement with the UK based Bio Technology company Oxitec, which specializes in genetically modified insects. As part of the agreement GBIT has imported eggs of genetically modified Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. Once these mosquitoes with the strain (OX513A) mate with the local females, the offspring then produced would never reach adulthood. This in their opinion would drastically reduce the population of the mosquito. And this would result in lowering the spread of Dengue across India.
In Puducherry (Formerly Pondicherry) the Vector Control Research Center the approach to Dengue is slightly different. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is working in collaboration with Monash University to introduce bacteria infected mosquito cells from Australia.
The bacteria in the cells would work in two ways
- It would improve the immunity of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito so that the Dengue virus finds it difficult to infect the mosquito
- Also, the Bacteria will compete with the virus for the resources in the mosquito’s body and limit the spread of the virus.
In both instances the incidents of Dengue should come down.
Interesting concepts and hopefully one of these approaches will get us results. In the past, there have been pilots in eradicating the malaria mosquito in a similar fashion in the 1970’s. But due to mixed results the pilots was never continued.
In addition to genetics there is an effort to develop a vaccine for Dengue. Dengvaxia by Sanofi Pasteur has been approved in more than 20 countries and is waiting for approval in India. There is also an indigenous vaccine being developed by the International Center for genetic engineering and bio technology.
So there is hope for Dengue. Either genetic engineering or vaccine or probably both would be used to manage the issue. Until then stay safe.
(Modified from Healthcare Supplement from Week Magazine, July 7th Edition)