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India turns to Ayurveda to find a cure for Dengue

India has a massive disease burden and nearly half of the global population at risk of dengue. Only last year, the country saw one the worst outbreaks in recent times, with Delhi reporting 10,683 cases by October.

In this scenario, a global non-profit organization, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and an Indian multinational Sun Pharmaceuticals have signed an agreement to develop a botanical drug to combat dengue.

Supported by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, the drug, Cipa, with its roots in traditional Ayurvedic knowledge, is projected as the first plant-based medicine. Derived from the plant Cissampelos pareira Linn, commonly known as abuta and laghu patha in ayurveda, it has shown to inhibit all four strains of dengue (DENVs).

The formal pact comes on the heels of eight years of research, by Khanna’s team at ICGEB, supported by specialists in ayurveda by Ranbaxy, which was acquired by Sun Pharma in 2014. Four years from now, India could have a pill for curative and even preventive dengue therapy.

“The US FDA approved four botanical drugs from China last year,” said Dr Naveen Khanna of the ICGEB, “India should wake up and create these drugs with the help of modern science.”

The project came about in 2007 when Professor Handa of the Department of Biotechnology approached ICGEB to study plant extracts for dengue treatment, and connected them with Ranbaxy’s 80 member team of ayurveda specialists told Dr. Khanna.”We don’t know yet, how it interferes with the proliferation of the dengue virus,” said Dr Khanna of the extract of Cissampelos pareira, “but we know it does.” Dr Lal added that its long history of usage and safety gave the researchers confidence in using the plant.

It currently has patents in 17 countries, while awaiting one in India. Sun Pharma will have access to intellectual properties in all countries.

While the world largely focuses on vaccines, the scientists involved with Cipa doubt the efficacy of any of the current contenders, mainly Sanofi Pasteur’s Dengvaxia that cleared clinical trials in parts of Latin America last year, and was reportedly being brought to India. Though admitting they were in competition with Sanofi, scientists pointed out its limitations of only being suitable for those between the ages of 9 to 45.

 

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