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The East African : December 30th 2013
28 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK DECEMBER 28, 2013 - JANUARY 3, 2014 S CI E N C E World’s first cure for dengue fever ‘98alive’ contains antibacte≥ial, antivi≥al and immunity boosting p≥ope≥ties By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent A ustralian and Indonesian scientists have developed the world’s first cure for dengue fever, raising hope for thousands of East Africans who are at a high risk of infection. The “98alive” drug kills all the four strains of the dengue virus, which is transferred to humans by mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti). Dengue fever is estimated to ef- fect 390 million people every year and is particularly prevalent on the East African coast. Max Reynolds, an Australian sci- entist and one of the drug’s developers, said 98alive was developed from leaf concentrate and contains antiviral, antibacterial and immunity boosting properties. Eliminates the virus “98alive is taken in capsule form, so it is easy to administer,” said Prof Reynolds. “A dosage of 300mg twice daily decreases the viral load of all four strains of the dengue virus at a rate of 96.67 per cent and eliminates the virus within 10 minutes.” He said that the drug not only reduces the chance of the disease becoming life threatening but also prevents its spread. The drug has undergone rigorous testing at leading research facilities in Australia, the United States and in Asia and is available globally. The study’s two-year Phase Three clinical trial found that the active ingredient in 98alive, melaleuca alternifolia leaf extract (MAC) is an effective antiviral agent against A Bolivian boy suffering from dengue fever lies at a hospital in Santa Cruz. Scientists have found a cure. Picture: FILE dengue fever. The randomised and placebo- controlled trial involved 530 patients. Prof Reynolds said that the medicine’s immune boosting properties means it is also highly effective in preventing dengue fever. “98alive primarily strengthens the immune system and therefore the recipient’s ability to fight the viral infection,” he said. “This means that travellers or people living in high risk areas can take 98alive as a means of preventing dengue fever and to build up a resistance to the disease.” Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection found in tropical and sub-tropical regions. According to the World Health Organisation, transmission in recent years has increased predominantly in urban and semi-urban areas and has become a major international public health concern. The symptoms are similar to those of malaria and, although WHO says there is no vaccine or any specific medicine to treat it, people who have dengue fever should rest, drink plenty of fluids and reduce the fever using paracetamol or see a doctor. Rosemary Sang, head of the Ar- bovirology Laboratory at the Centre for Virus Research at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), said dengue fever outbreaks are projected to increase in the coming years because global warming causes the habitat of mosquitoes to expand. More than 100 people on the Kenyan Coast this year suffered from a “People should therefore always take caution while travelling from the nonendemic regions to the high endemic regions.” Dr Rosemary Sang, Kemri dengue outbreak and another outbreak was reported in Mandera, northern Kenya, in 2011, affecting 5,000 people. There have also been several outbreaks reported in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. “The dengue virus thrives well in places where there is more heat and the sanitation is poor,” said Dr Sang. At the coast, where people do not have running water, mosquitoes that carry the virus hide and breed in plastic containers that are used for water storage. Dr Sang said that people in ar- eas where the outbreaks have been reported should ensure that their water containers are well covered and use mosquito repellents to avoid transmission of the disease. “The A.aegypti mosquitoes that carry the virus bite people during the day and the high temperatures help the virus to grow rapidly,” she said. New p≥og≥amme to t≥ain medical students in diabetes By HALIMA ABDALLA Special Correspondent STUDENTS OF medicine from universities in Africa will benefit from diabetes management training as part of an effort to deal with the rising prevalence of the ailment across yhe continent. Sponsored by pharmaceutical, chemical and life science firm Merck Serono, the training programme will begin with a pioneer class of 160 students from Makerere University College of Health Sciences. The company recently signed a partnership agreement with Uganda’s Ministry of Health, Mulago National Referral Hospital, Makerere University College of Health Sciences and the Uganda Diabetes Association. Merck Serono is also expected to sign similar agreements with authorities in Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania and Mozambique before the five-year programme is rolled out to the rest of Africa. “We will target research and development, ca- pacity building in diabetes and neglected tropical diseases, and the supply and distribution chain of medical equipment,” said Rasha Kalej, Nurses at National Referral Hospital Mulago test a patient for high blood pressure before he takes a diabetes test. Picture: Halima Abdalla programme director at Merck Serono. The programme is meant to equip students with the latest skills and technology in handling diabetic persons. Dr Fred Nakwagala, a consultant doctor at Mulago Hospital, said the various types of diabetes require different approaches, hence the reason for the emphasis on training. “The limited training that we have for our students can only equip them with the basics,” he said. Diabetes is a non-communicable disease that is caused by high sugar or glucose in the blood. Although it is not a major health burden in Africa, there are signs that changing lifestyles are creating a fertile ground for the disease. Given the poverty in East Africa, the fear is that if it reaches epidemic levels, the countries will be unable to meet the costs of treatment. Estimates show that close to 4 per cent of Uganda’s population is diabetic but are unaware about their status because they have not been tested. Dr Nakwagala said there are only 40,000 registered patients, most of whom walk in when it is too late. The World Health Organisation predicts that non-communicable diseases will rise in developing and poor countries because of adoption of poor lifestyles. The training programme requires the ben- eficiaries to visit communities countrywide to raise awareness about the disease, how to avoid it, testing and treatment. Study: 80pc of scientific data lost in two decades A new study has found that about 80 per cent of scientific data is lost within two decades of its publication. The study published in Current Biology warns that this loss wastes research money and delays scientific research. This, scientists say, calls for urgent policy change to enhance research data storage at the point of publication and for its sharing through public archives. Kemri lab to improve TB diagnosis and treatment Kemri and the US-based Centres for Disease Control have put up an ultramodern $2.3 million tuberculosis laboratory in Kisumu, western Kenya. The facility is the first of its kind to be awarded ISO certification in the country. Kemri director Solomon Mpoke said the laboratory has been linked with other facilities to enable doctors to get test results within a day, as opposed to between six and eight weeks. It is capable of receiving more than 100 samples per day and releasing sputum results immediately. BRIEFS Researchers grow seed yam using aeroponics Researchers at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have successfully grown seed yams in the air using aeroponics technology, raising hopes and more options for the propagation of virus- and disease-free planting materials. The scientists propagated yam by planting vine cuttings in aeroponics system boxes to produce mini-tubers in the air. Aeroponics involves growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. Growing yam on aeroponics is a novelty for rapidly multiplying clean seed tubers in large quantities. New kit to allow saliva testing for malaria Scientists at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) are developing a kit to test malaria using saliva. Blood tests are the gold standard for malaria diagnosis, but their invasive nature requires trained personnel and raises the risk of accidental transmission of infectious diseases. “Use of saliva should be popular because the procedure is not invasive. The diagnostic tool under development will be capable of quantifying parasite density,” said Eva Aluvaala, the lead researcher at Kemri’s Centre for Biotechnology Research and Development.
December 23rd 2013
January 6th 2014