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Domestic dengue vaccine could be available in 2020

There may be renewed hope of combating dengue fever amongst reports of cases spiking over recent weeks. A domestically produced dengue fever vaccine may be made available in 2020.

Chikungunya mosquito.
The aedes aegypti mosquito, one of the most prominent dengue vectors.

The dengue vaccination will be introduced in India early next year. This rollout of the vaccine will only be partial, however. A senior official of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said that the vaccine will be made available on a demonstration basis in areas where the prevalence is high.

“We are looking at the use of demonstration projects for the dengue vaccine for the future in areas of high prevalence,” said ICMR director-general Balram Bhargava. In total, serotype analysis has been performed across fifteen states to analyse where the vaccine would have the most impact.

The disease currently claims hundreds of lives a year, a fact brought up by Bhargava. He notes that Sri Lanka also has a high burden of dengue fever, yet has a significantly lower mortality rate. 

India is in the final phase of signing a collaboration with Sri Lanka as their dengue programme has been “exemplary” according to Bhargava “They [Sri Lanka] have done the best as far as dengue is concerned. They have a very high incidence of dengue yet zero mortality.”

A new angle of approach may be a necessity as disease cases have recently spiked across the August-September period. An official at the Hyderabad Public Health and Municipal Engineering Department PHMED explained the recent high figures, “We have…asked all private hospitals to also report all cases of dengue fever to us, which is also one reason why the numbers are high (4,500 plus) this time. However, the main reason behind this outbreak is bad sanitation in homes, where dengue mosquitoes breed wherever there is stagnant water,” added the official.

The vaccine may provide a metaphorical safety net in reducing the transmission of the dengue virus, however, the root of the issue must be addressed. Lapsed sanitation allows mosquitoes to proliferate, particularly within densely populated urban centres, exposing the population to dengue, as well as a host of other mosquito-borne infections.

If dengue, as well as other diseases such as malaria and chikungunya are to be controlled, a multi-faceted approach is needed. Vaccines are a vital step in this solution, but treatments must also be readily available, as well as plans to curb the mosquito population. By addressing each of these issues, the overall burden of disease could be significantly reduced.

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