Special Reports

The Killer Dengue and the sordid saga of poor governance!

Last week there was an outcry in the print, electronic and social media as Avinash Rout, 7, and Aman Sharma, 6, died of dengue after allegedly being denied treatment by private hospitals. Avinash's parents committed suicide following his death.

Now the Delhi High Court concerned over the alarming rise in cases, asked the Centre, the state government and civic bodies to explain the steps being taken to check the crisis.

Dengue is not new and the source/causes of this disease are well known. Why govt. fail time and again?  Why there is no effective medicine/vaccine for Dengue yet?

In this brief article I tried to highlight some important lacuna towards the effective treatment and possible vaccine in this brief article.

The central govt. of India spending several thousand crores of rupees on advertisements whiles the Delhi govt. itself spending few hundred crores on their advertisements. Our labs have been dried up without funds and early career researchers are struggling like anything.

We the people are expecting miracles to happen so far developing a vaccine/drug for Dengue is concerned. The country lacks the proper funding for research and basic infrastructure to contain endemics/epidemics like Dengue. Further we don’t mind to donate to Babas/Dargahs/Temples, Sai Baba trust etc. and complaint when we lose our own children when they become victims of such dreaded diseases. Why can’t we donate to funding agencies/trusts that fund for research if we want to protect the lives of our own children? Let’s introspect.

Let me tell you western countries are not much affected by this disease and this is not on their priority list, even if they start doing research on this, it will be purely for business purpose and sell the drugs/vaccine to the countries affected by this disease and India is the country where the occurrence of Dengue is most prevalent.

As per the WHO reports Dengue research is in turmoil following confusing efficacy reports from large-scale phase III clinical studies on the lead candidate tetravalent dengue vaccine, so the drugs/vaccine for Dengue is not in sight in near future.

A dengue vaccine has proven difficult to develop, in part because there are four major subtypes of dengue virus, each with slightly different viral proteins. Many researchers currently believe that the deadly dengue hemorrhagic disease is caused when a person is infected with one subtype, and then infected later by a second subtype. The antibodies, and immunity, gained from the first infection appear to assist with the infection by the second subtype, instead of providing a general immunity to all subtypes. This means that an effective vaccine will have to stimulate protective antibodies against all four types at once, a feat that has not yet been achieved.

I think our policy makers are in deep slumber and pass the blame to others, viz. the state govt. to the central govt. and vice versa. Every year we face this menace and lose both the money and human lives mostly children.

It’s a serious obligation on the part of Indian govt. to start a separate funding for research especially for Dengue and other neglected disease with close monitoring on the research activities, yearly reports and developments.

We in the western countries do research on Dengue based on laboratory viruses which is sometime not good for getting the exact vaccine/drug. It would be great if the Indian govt. can focus on tackling this disease (As Dengue is most prevalent in India) and enabling the local scientists/researchers/doctors with requisite funds and infrastructure.

For achieving such feats, govt. must look beyond the pigeon-hole. The thing which kills the Indian science most is the complex bureaucracy where we have to wait for months for getting the chemicals/reagents and by the time researchers lose their interests. As we look in the past one year or so, Indian govt. is most interested in imposing religious belief (Beef ban, Meat ban) of particular community killing the very idea of science. Before imposing such ban they must go through the fifth standard science and see how the food chain/web work and how the very energy flow in a particular ecosystem.

Last but not the least I want to request to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, if you really want to see India as a progressive and developed country please stop seeing everything using the lenses of religion and stop supporting the religious fanatics. The county has immense potential both on science and economic frontiers. We have enough brain and I am sure we can produce indigenous vaccine/drugs for diseases like Dengue.

Dr. Mumtaz Naiyer is Postdoctoral Scientist, Clinical and Experimental Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton Southampton, UK

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