India has developed an indigenous dengue vaccine candidate that offers protection from all four strains in clinical stages, a drug major announced on Wednesday, raising hopes of an effective shield against a disease that afflicts thousands of people in the country annually.
However, it is yet to be tested on humans and could take up to eight to 10 years to be available to the public.
“I’m really happy today as a lot of good research in India is known to never see the light of day. It may some years before the vaccine is marketed, but a start has been made,” said Dr Navin Khanna, a senior scientist at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB).
ICGEB is collaborating with drug major Sun Pharma to use the research to develop an injectible vaccine that protects against all four dengue strains that are endemic to India.
Khanna led the group that started work in 2005 on the vaccine with the scientific name DSV4.
Dengue, a viral infection spread by the aedes aegyti mosquito, infected more than 50,000 people and killed nearly a 100 people across several states till October 2 this year, posing a major challenge for the government on the healthcare front. Delhi was among the worst-affected states.
Introducing vaccines in the public health system increases volumes and bring down prices, crucial for countries like India which faces an annual flare-up of the disease.
The four-in-one design of the vaccine is expected to make it cost-effective.
Three shots of the vaccine -- at the interval of 0, 1 and 3 months – are expected to provide nearly 100% protection for 5 to 10 years.
Dengvaxia by French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur is the only dengue vaccine licensed for sale in the world but it doesn’t have marketing approval for India.
“Unlike Dengvaxia, which offers protection to people living in endemic countries, DSV4 will offer protection to people who have not been exposed to the dengue viruses, making it useful for travellers and children,” said Khanna.
Dr Altaf Lal from Sun Pharma said “it is too early to provide a time-line on when the vaccine will be ready for commercial use but the desire is to move as quickly as possible”.
Globally, dengue infects an estimated 400 million people across 128 countries and kills 22,000 people annually, according to the World Health Organisation.