The Punjab University has set up a team of researchers to look for diagnostic, preventive and curative measures against the dengue virus.
Vice Chancellor Prof Mujahid Kamran called a meeting of all the university’s scientists involved in research connected to the dengue mosquito and virus at the Centre for Undergraduate Studies on Thursday to coordinate their research, said a PU press release.
The vice chancellor told the scientists to submit their research proposals and the administration would try to arrange funding for them as soon as possible. He said that a separate budget for dengue research would be drawn up.
He said that the objective of the meeting was to coordinate among the university’s scientists working on related research, such as a project on the dengue mosquito being conducted by the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and the Centre for Applied Molecular Biology (CAMB).
According to the press release, the experts at the meeting said that it was “not beyond the realms of possibility” that the dengue outbreak in Pakistan was “a result of bio-warfare from a big power”.
Dr Saeed Akhtar said that the dengue mosquito became inactive at temperatures below 23 degrees Celsius and stopped laying eggs at temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius. He stressed the need for maximum collaboration with experts from Sri Lanka, which has been battling the dengue virus for three decades. He said a two-credit hour compulsory course on arboviruses (viruses spread by flying insects) should be included in the MBBS curriculum.
Dr Muhammad Idrees Khan said that there was enough indigenous technology to diagnose dengue. He said there should be research on whether papaya leaf extract was an effective remedy, as is believed locally. He said all four types of the dengue virus should be studied.
CAMB Director Dr Tayyab Hasnain said that three projects were recently discussed at a meeting at the centre. “Firstly, we have a low-priced powder which can be added to water to kill mosquitoes, but we need to test it on the dengue mosquito. Secondly, there is the question of which medicine is effective against dengue. And thirdly, can diagnostic PCR analysis help diagnose a patient suffering from dengue fever.”
Dr Fauzia Qamar briefed the meeting on her research into treatment. She said hospitals had vastly improved their treatment of dengue patients since the outbreak began. She said from talks with patients, it was clear that there was a lot of misinformation about dengue.
She said high-grade fever, vomiting, sore throat, and a decline in the platelet count were symptoms of dengue infection, but did not necessarily mean the patient had dengue. She said only 20 per cent of people visiting hospital for fear they have dengue tested positive for the disease.
She said extreme muscle and joint pain, severe headache, muscle pain, severe dizziness, spontaneous bruising, shivering, restlessness, loss of appetite, weak pulse and a drastically reduced platelet counts were authentic symptoms of dengue.
Dr Qamar suggested that lady health workers be trained to raise awareness of preventive measures.
Researcher Kumail Hussain said that fogging had created a false sense of security. He said dengue mosquitoes had developed resistance against the spray. He too said that public hospitals were doing a much improved job of treating dengue patients.
Khawaja Imran Nazir, an MPA and a member of the PU Syndicate, said Punjab government officials had been spending 19 hours a day fighting dengue.
He said a meeting of the PU researchers with the Sri Lankan experts would be arranged shortly. He said the Sri Lankan experts had ‘admitted’ that the treatment facilities at hospitals here were better than in developed countries. He said private hospitals had been providing free treatment for the first time in history and many pharmacies had also been providing medicines without profit or for free.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2011.