Innovative research to fight dengue needed

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 11 Aug 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: The government should fund more dengue research, including testing whether the prescription of effective mosquito repellents to dengue patients can reduce the spread of the viral disease, said a virologist.

World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Reference and Research director Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said there was insufficient funding for local researchers to carry out dengue studies.

Dr Sazaly said that not all Aedes mosquitoes carry the dengue virus and even if there was a lot of mosquitoes, it did not mean that there were more dengue virus.

“We should control dengue in humans. Infected humans are the ones responsible in propagating dengue. We must tell the public not to infect the mosquitoes, ” said Dr Sazaly, who pointed out that often times, when one person was down with dengue, the whole family tends to get dengue.

“If one person gets dengue, the person and the family must prevent the person who is infected from being bitten. He or she should use repellent.”

Often, when people get dengue, they get it elsewhere and might not be from their housing area, hence, fogging in their housing area might not be effective, he said.

Dr Sazaly argued that allowing doctors to prescribe mosquito repellents to dengue patients was needed because when a doctor tells dengue patients to buy mosquito repellent on their own, they tend to ignore that.

For this reason, Dr Sazaly also urged the government to engage more local experts and give tax deductions for home owners to install insect screens.

The Star carried a front page news yesterday highlighting 79, 151 cases (including 113 deaths) have been recorded from January to Aug 3, which is a historic high for the period, in tandem with huge spikes in dengue cases in neighbouring countries.

Dr Sazaly, whose nephew is currently under intensive care for dengue, claimed there has never been serious funding with integrated strategy from the government to study and tackle dengue as a whole.

“The funding and strategies have been piecemeal. The government should look beyond the Wolbachia (a bacteria currently trialled for biological control of mosquito reproduction) study because there is a lot that we do not know about the method, and whether it works or not.

“There is currently no evidence of it showing a reduction in dengue transmission in dengue-endemic countries, ” he said.

Taiwan, for instance, has many dengue researchers because the government put in a lot of funds into dengue research and innovation.

It has, for example, introduced an app that would notify people in real-time about dengue infections around them so that they take precautionary measures.

“The government needs to put in more funds here. We need to invest to study our problem, ” he said.

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