From the lab: On course to developing an anti-dengue cure

This kit, which had been developed in 2009, provides the most common diagnostic test for dengue now and is much more accurate and cheap than the imported alternatives that were available in the Indian market earlier.

Published:January 24, 2016 12:26 am

We have been working on dengue for a few years now and have been able to develop a very successful dengue diagnostic kit using recombinant DNA technology. This kit, which had been developed in 2009, provides the most common diagnostic test for dengue now and is much more accurate and cheap than the imported alternatives that were available in the Indian market earlier. It is the only kit that detects dengue on the very first day of the viral fever. It can also be used to detect whether a mosquito is carrying the dengue virus or not and therefore can be used for mosquito surveillance in a given area.

Our success with the diagnostic kit, which was the result of a very useful research partnership between laboratory, industry and a government agency like the Department of Biotechnology, has encouraged us to take our fight with dengue to the next level.

Dengue is caused by four viruses. As of now, no diagnostic test, including our own kit, is able to establish which of the four viruses is the reason for dengue in any particular individual. In terms of the impacts of the disease on the person, it does not matter. Each of the four viruses produces similar effects on the patient. But we have often found more than one virus co-circulating in a patient. This can be more dangerous and requires greater medical attention.

We, in collaboration with the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, are now in the process of developing a reagent which will be able to tell at an early stage, within 10 minutes, which of the four viruses is causing dengue in a patient and whether more than one of them are present. This is a very complicated test but is scientifically possible.

We are not even stopping here. We are very close to developing a drug for dengue. Currently, there is no cure for dengue. The disease can only be managed by maintaining a certain minimum amount of White Blood Cell and platelet counts. We have been able to develop an anti-dengue herbal solution. It is an ayurvedic solution mixed with modern medicine. It has been tested successfully on mice. On oral feeding of this plant, the dengue virus from the test mice was seen to have disappeared. Last month, in December, we also published a paper on our findings of the efficacy of this herbal cure. We have also obtained patents on this herbal medicine in 17 countries.

Further development of anti-dengue herbal cure would have been possible earlier, but the partnering pharmaceutical company, Ranbaxy was bought over by a Japanese firm, which lacked expertise in development of herbal medicines.

This venture of the Japanese firm has now been bought by another Indian company, Sun Pharma, which wants to take this forward once again. We are in the process of taking our application to AYUSH, the government department responsible for traditional forms of medicine. The human trials will follow. If all goes well and on schedule, we are likely to have an effective herbal drug for dengue in the Indian market in the next few years.

Navin Khanna & team
International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

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