With no known cure yet for dengue, a viral disease that is estimated to infect 50 million annually and cause 22,000 deaths across the world, the Serum Institute of India has taken up its most ambitious project ever. The world’s fifth largest vaccine manufacturer is planning to come out with an effective vaccine against dengue, and its scientists have also embarked on a project to develop monoclonal antibodies to treat the disease.
“If you are down with dengue, all it will take is to inject the antibodies that will neutralise the virus,” Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, told The Indian Express.
As part of a joint collaboration with a US-based firm that will be formally signed next month, scientists have now developed a clone of cells to treat the virus. “We are getting good results at the laboratory level and now it needs to be scaled up,” said Dr Rajeev Dhere, executive director of the institute.
Developing antibodies is part of a passive protection and act against four serotypes of dengue. So far, there is no known cure beyond diet and intake of vitamins. “Injecting saline is also part of symptomatic treatment,” Dhere said.
He added: “We have spent Rs 3,000 crore in the past and now setting aside another Rs 1,000 crore for the next phase of expansion at the vaccine manufacturing facility. The focus will be on dengue among other viral diseases.”
Researchers at the institute have also taken up the challenge of developing a vaccine against the dengue virus. They had tied up with the University of Mahidol, Thailand, in this connection. Poonawalla, however, said it would take another three years or so to come out with a vaccine and dengue monoclonal antibodies.
According to the National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme, there have been a total of 13,911 cases and 37 deaths due to dengue this year (January to September), while the year 2013 saw a total of 75,808 cases and 193 deaths.
Dr Kanchan Jagtap, Joint Director of Health, Maharashtra, however, said the state had registered 3,555 positive cases and 24 deaths this year, with Chandrapur recording 636 cases, the highest, till September-end.
Pune Municipal Corporation health officials said there were over 3,000 suspected cases of dengue in the city and six deaths.