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India could have the solution to cure dengue by next year: an ayurvedic pill

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Under development for two years, the medicine is made of a variety of herbs grown in India, and is likely to hit the market next year.

New Delhi: Ayurveda may soon yield the cure to dengue fever, the deadly mosquito-borne disease that kills scores every year in aggressive outbreaks across India.

In the absence of a specific medicine to heal patients, the disease, caused by the bite of the female Aedis aegypti mosquito, is currently managed by rigorously treating the symptoms.

The medicine, under development for two years, is part of a joint initiative of the Ayush (ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, Unani, siddha and homoeopathy) ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It is made of a variety of ayurvedic herbs grown in India, and is likely to hit the market next year, in the form of a pill.

The drug has cleared the tests for efficacy and safety during the first two stages of the clinical trial. “It is now in the third stage (also the final stage) of the clinical trial, where it will be administered over a larger sample of patients, over 10,000, before it gets the final approval,” Rajesh Kotecha, secretary, ministry of Ayush, told ThePrint. “We are hoping to launch the medicine by the second half of next year.”

Details about the sale of the medicine are yet to be firmed up, including whether it will be available only on prescription or over the counter.

As of now, the ICMR and ministry team are working to standardise the dosage and fix the proportion of each herb used. Kotecha refused to divulge details about the herbs, including their names.

A medicine to cure dengue will be a big breakthrough for people around the world, with the WHO reporting its global incidence “growing dramatically in recent decades”. According to the UN agency, about half the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease.

In 2015, French drug-maker Sanofi launched the world’s first dengue prevention vaccine, Dengvaxia, but it remains controversial over the company’s claim that it could make the disease worse among first-time patients.

Deadly dengue

According to the directorate of the national vector-borne disease control programme (NVBDCP), dengue killed 226 Indians in 2017, and 245 in 2016. A total of 1.54 lakh cases were reported across India last year, with 22,197 reported in Tamil Nadu alone.

Dengue fever is known to affect over 40 crore people the world over, mostly in Asia and Latin America.

According to the WHO, “dengue should be suspected when a high fever (104°F) is accompanied by two of the following symptoms: severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands or rash”. Symptoms usually last for two to seven days, after an incubation period of 4-10 days after the bite from an infected mosquito, it adds.

Severe dengue is a potentially deadly complication due to plasma leaking, fluid accumulation, respiratory distress, severe bleeding, or organ impairment, the WHO says, adding that warning signs occur 3-7 days after the first symptoms in conjunction with a decrease in temperature.

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