Pharma companies ready plans to tackle Dengue

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NEW DELHI: Sensing an opportunity in the dengue outbreak, major pharma companies — including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Novartis and Sanofi Pasteur — are developing a treatment and preventive against the disease.

While leading vaccine manufacturers, GSK Biologicals and Sanofi Pasteur are working on a vaccine which will be a preventive against the disease, Novartis is developing a drug for its treatment.

"GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals is working hard on a vaccine which will prevent a person against all four strains of dengue virus," Dr Sanjoy Datta, director of clinical R&D and medical affairs, GSK Biologicals - South Asia, told ToI.

At present, the company is conducting Phase II trails in Thailand. Since the vaccine will be tested on hundreds of subjects, it will be introduced in two to three years, he added.

Dengue is transmitted through the bite of the female Aedes Aegypti mosquito. The virus, which occurs mainly in the tropics, causes symptoms such as fever, severe headache, joint and muscular pains, vomiting and rashes.

Dengue fever affects more than 100 countries, placing 2.5 billion people at risk in South and central America, the southern US, Africa, and Asia. Dengue fever causes 30,000 deaths each year, and overall, is a potential threat for close to half the world's population.

This year, dengue outbreak continues to grow across India with the death toll touching 50, and the number of people suffering from the disease crossing the 4,000-mark.

It is understood that GSK's vaccine is the first two-dose vaccine to show a 100% immune response against all four virus subtypes that cause the disease. The vaccine is expected to enter Phase III in 2007, and be commercially available thereafter, if its efficacy and safety is proven.

Further,Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines business of Sanofi Aventis, is also at the forefront of dengue vaccine development, having an active programme since the 1990s.

"The goal is to develop a safe vaccine with satisfactory protective efficacy for the four serotypes. It currently is in Phase II clinical trials for adults and children", said Anthony Marechal, Media Relations Manager, Sanofi Pasteur.

Sanofi Pasteur is working with the Pediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative (PDVI) to develop the dengue vaccine.

Meanwhile, alternative therapy such as homeopathy already seems to offer a cure. While there is no treatment available for the disease as of now, homeopathy offers a cure as well as a preventive, with no known side-effects.

Says Dr Rachna Khanna Singh, homeopathic physician Escorts Heart Institute: "There are a couple of remedies which have been identified to provide an immunity cover of 70-80%. But there is no current research available on this."

"Whenever an epidemic strikes, from the disease symptom pool, we can derive medication from the genusepidemicus. This is how we can offer a preventive, and also a cure in some cases," Rachna Khanna Singh added.

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