Making research count: Developing cheaper, faster dengue diagnosis
() - March 18, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - In its aim to develop a field-based rapid kit for the early diagnosis of dengue, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD-DOST) is currently backing a research group from the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB) of the National Institutes of Health-University of the Philippines (UP-NIH) to develop new technologies on the program.

“Our major goals at this point are on developing technologies for the early detection or diagnosis and, toward the latter part, the identification of markers either for protection or for severity which will be, from a clinical standpoint, helpful to physicians in deciding the degree of intervention needed,” said Raul Destura, NIMBB director.

Under the dengue program are three projects. The first project deals with the development of the diagnostic kit, which is capable of not only detecting the dengue virus but also with which serotype the infection is — ideally, in the first 12 hours of illness. Currently, there are four known strains of dengue.

The second project deals with the validation of the diagnostic kit. Once the diagnostics kit has been validated through evidence of its effectiveness, it may soon replace the current diagnostic tests for dengue.

Finally, the third project deals with the identification of biomarkers for prediction of disease prognosis. Here, the research team expects to find markers which will effectively tell the doctors which patients will need most urgent medical care.

Researches on diagnostics and biomarkers are crucial components to stimulate technological innovation and improve clinical practice.

One of the main thrusts of the program is to make sure that the end result — the rapid diagnostic kit — is affordable and therefore can be used by smaller hospitals and health institutions.

“If the Filipino people won’t be able to pay for it, then what’s the point?” said Destura.

Dengue is considered to be the second deadliest mosquito-borne disease next to malaria. It is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headaches, weakness, vomiting, nausea, eye, joint, and muscle pain, and rashes.

To make matters worse, the spread of the disease was recently feared to be unstoppable due to the effects of global warming.

Mosquitoes, including their larvae, thrive in warmer climates. Tropical countries like the Philippines are at high risk for increased mosquito populations due to the ever warming climate and, consequently, an increase in sickness caused by mosquitoes — including dengue. 

Health experts have also advised nations to enforce more aggressive elimination methods, in response to the urgent need to reduce incidence of people contracting the disease and the fatalities — which number over 50 million and 24,000, respectively, every year worldwide.

The actions that have been taken to counter the spread of the disease have shown to have some positive effect as the reported dengue cases back in August 2009 had decreased by 37 percent compared to the same period in the previous year.

Former health secretary Francisco Duque III revealed that the department’s drive was mostly focused on prevention and its main tool is public education.

However, he had also admitted that work was needed in order for health institutions to fully understand the disease, in order for the country to develop new approaches and ultimately greatly reduce fatalities and improve outcomes in clinical management.

While this project by the researchers at NIMBB is already showing great progress in the clinical aspect of fighting the spread of dengue, Destura agreed that more research is indeed necessary in order to put this threat to people’s health under control.

“There are other questions about dengue that maybe our research counterparts in other centers within the country and outside the country can also find some answers. We are hoping also that they will be successful,” Destura said.

“As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t mean anything until the research reaches the end-user,” he added.

DENGUE DESTURA DISEASE FRANCISCO DUQUE HEALTH HEALTH RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IF THE FILIPINO NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH-UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES PHILIPPINE COUNCIL RAUL DESTURA
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