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Health Ministry turns to drug repurposing to combat dengue

Publish date: Mon, 04 Mar 2024, 07:27 PM

SHAH ALAM: The Health Ministry is using drug repurposing as part of its latest approach in the fight against the dengue disease, says Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

The Health Minister said the development, which is at the clinical stage, is done together with the Dengue for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and the Institute of Medical Research (IMR).

“The research is aimed to repurpose existing antiviral drugs for dengue disease.

“There are four dengue stereotypes (DENV 1, DENV 2, DENV 3, and DENV 4), and in Malaysia, we have seen DENV1 and DENV2, but the most prominent is DENV2.

“The drug repurposing we are using currently has the same efficacy as the one used on those with Hepatitis C, which is called Nelfinavir. We are looking at several candidates presently,” he said.

He added that repurposing licensed drugs as a treatment against dengue was a smart and strategic method.

This is because producing a new drug costs a lot of money and is very time-consuming, he also said.

Dr Dzulkefly said this after officiating the Dengue Research Visibility Day 2024 at the National Health Institute here on Monday (March 4).

Also present were the Health director-general, Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan, and deputy director-general (research & technical support), Datuk Dr Nor Fariza Ngah.

The inaugural event calls for the shared commitment of nations and organisations in addressing the global challenges of dengue.

The collaborative efforts of the ministry with DNDi and other dengue-endemic countries were encapsulated in the Dengue Alliance, a global partnership established in 2022.

The alliance is dedicated to developing affordable and accessible treatments for dengue works on joint projects, advancing pre-clinical development of new drug candidates and clinical trials.

“The primary focus is conducting preclinical studies and trials with the aim of bringing cost-effective and accessible treatments to fruition within the next five years.

“Let’s hope for another success story played by the Dengue Alliance in developing a new elixir for the treatment of dengue patients akin to our previous successful joint efforts in Hepatitis,” he said.

The ministry recorded an 86.3% spike in the number of dengue cases in 2023 compared to the previous year.

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