Jun 21, 2013

    Vaccine for dengue within sight

    CLINICAL trials for the first vaccine that protects against all four types of dengue virus could be completed by next year or 2015.

    But the vaccine may need time after that for approval by regulators before it can be used by the public, going by what Dr Joselito del Mundo Sta. Ana, senior director and regional head for dengue vaccines at Sanofi Pasteur in Asia-Pacific and Japan, said.

    Sanofi Pasteur has engaged in dengue-vaccine research for about 20 years.

    When contacted about the vaccine, a Ministry of Health (MOH) spokesman told My Paper on Wednesday that several vaccine candidates are at different stages of pre-clinical or clinical development.

    "The candidate currently at the most advanced clinical-development stage is a live attenuated tetravalent vaccine developed by Sanofi Pasteur. It is in phase three of clinical trials," the MOH spokesman added.

    She noted that there is no specific antiviral treatment for dengue fever. So, the key strategy against dengue remains the effective control of mosquito populations and the elimination of mosquito-breeding habitats.

    The Aedes mosquito spreads dengue.

    As of 3pm on Wednesday, the total number of reported cases of dengue this year was 10,515. There have been 407 reported cases from Sunday to 3pm on Wednesday this week, as well as 61 dengue clusters islandwide.

    Dr Leo Yee Sin, head of the Communicable Disease Centre, said that it is likely for the number of cases to exceed 15,000 this year, setting a new record, The Straits Times reported on Tuesday.

    The dominant dengue-virus strain - Den-1 - causing the current epidemic can replicate inside mosquitoes at three times the speed of strains that circulated last year, which means this virus strain carries a higher epidemic potential.