Tuesday February 18, 2020

Philippines Bans World’s First Dengue Vaccine

Manila banned the sale, import and distribution of the Dengvaxia vaccine in February following the deaths

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FILE - Parents of children injected with Dengvaxia vaccine carry pictures of their loved ones as they attend a senate hearing regarding the vaccine at the Senate building in Manila, Philippines, Feb. 21, 2018. VOA

The Philippines stood firm Tuesday on its ban on the world’s first dengue vaccine while declaring a nationwide epidemic from the mosquito-borne disease that it said has killed hundreds this year.

Dengue incidence shot up 98% from a year earlier to 146,062 cases from January 1 to July 20, causing 662 deaths, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a news conference in which he announced a “national dengue epidemic.”

Manila banned the sale, import and distribution of the Dengvaxia vaccine in February following the deaths of several dozen children who were among more than 700,000 people given shots in 2016 and 2017 in a government immunization campaign.

Duque said Thursday the government is studying an appeal to allow French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi to put the vaccine back in the Philippine market, but ruled out using the drug to combat the ongoing epidemic, which has hit small children hard.

Philippines, Ban, Dengue
The Philippines stood firm Tuesday on its ban on the world’s first dengue vaccine while declaring a nationwide epidemic from the mosquito-borne disease. Pixabay

“This vaccine does not squarely address the most vulnerable group which is the 5-9 years of age,” Duque said.

The vaccine, now licensed in 20 countries according to the World Health Organization, is approved for use for those aged nine and older.

Duque said the United Nations agency also advised Manila that the vaccine was “not recommended” as a response to an outbreak, and it was anyway “not cost-effective” with one dose costing a thousand pesos (about $20).

Dengue, or hemorrhagic fever, is the world’s most common mosquito-borne virus and infects an estimated 390 million people in more than 120 countries each year — killing more than 25,000 of them, according to the WHO.

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The Philippines in 2016 became the first nation to use Dengvaxia in a mass immunization program.

But controversy arose after Sanofi disclosed a year later that it could worsen symptoms for people not previously infected by the dengue virus.

The disclosure sparked a nationwide panic, with some parents alleging the vaccine killed their children.

Philippines, Ban, Dengue
Dengue incidence shot up 98% from a year earlier to 146,062 cases from January 1 to July 20, causing 662 deaths, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a news conference. Pixabay

The controversy also triggered a vaccine scare that the government said was a factor behind measles outbreaks that the UN Children’s Fund said have killed more than 200 people this year.

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Duque on Tuesday called on other government agencies, schools, offices and communities get out of offices, homes and schools every afternoon to take part in efforts to “search and destroy mosquito breeding sites”. (VOA)

Next Story

Skin Cream Used To Treat Warts, Skin Cancer May Help in Fighting Against Dengue, Zika Viruses

By boosting the immune system and not targeting a specific virus, this strategy has the potential to be a 'silver bullet' for a wide range of distinct mosquito-borne viral diseases

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A study shows that a clinically approved, widely used skin cream has the potential to be repurposed as a valuable protector against insect-borne diseases. Pixabay

A skin cream used to treat warts and skin cancer could help protect people against viral diseases such as Zika and dengue, according to new study.

The cream, called imiquimod or Aldara, is commonly used to treat genital warts and some forms of skin cancer.

“This study shows that a clinically approved, widely used skin cream has the potential to be repurposed as a valuable protector against insect-borne diseases,” said study lead author Clive McKimmie, from the University of Leeds in UK.

For the findings, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers studied four types of virus transmitted by mosquitos and found that applying a cream within an hour of a mosquito bite dramatically reduced infection rates in their models.

They used two different models to understand the effect of the skin cream – human skin samples and mice. In both cases, applying the skin cream acted like a warning signal which caused a rapid activation of the skin’s immune response that fights any potential viral threats. This prevented the virus from spreading around the body and causing disease.

“What is especially encouraging about our results is that the cream was effective against a number of distinct viruses, without needing to be targeted to one particular virus,” McKimmie said. “If this strategy can be developed into a treatment option then we might be able to use it to tackle a wide range of new emerging diseases that we have not yet encountered,” McKimmie added.

There are hundreds of viruses spread by biting mosquitoes which can infect humans. These include the dengue virus, West Nile virus, Zika virus and chikungunya virus, which have all had large outbreaks in recent years. At present, there are no anti-viral medicines and few vaccines to help combat these infections.

According to the researchers, when a mosquito bites the skin, the body reacts in a very specific way to try and mitigate the physical trauma of the skin being punctured. The bite causes a wound healing repair mechanism to begin, however, the skin does not prepare itself to respond to viral attack. This means mosquito-borne viruses that enter the skin through a bite are able to replicate quickly with little anti-viral response in the skin and then spread throughout the body, the study said.

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A skin cream used to treat warts and skin cancer could help protect people against viral diseases such as Zika and dengue, according to new study. Pixabay

By applying skin cream after a bite, researchers found that they could pre-emptively activate the immune system’s inflammatory response before the virus becomes a problem. The cream encouraged a type of immune cell in the skin, called a macrophage, to suddenly spring into action to fight off the virus before it could spread around the body.

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“By boosting the immune system and not targeting a specific virus, this strategy has the potential to be a ‘silver bullet’ for a wide range of distinct mosquito-borne viral diseases,” said study co-author Steven Bryden. (IANS)