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Expect A Chikv Antivirus Soon Indo-German Collaboration Underway

Updated: December 31, 2011 5:21 pm

Amidst news reports of dengue and chikungunya infection taking a toll recently not just in Jamshedpur, Ranchi and few more districts of the state this year the good news that follows is an effort by a team of researchers from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra who headed for Germany recently to test a recently developed molecule against the deadly Chikv virus.

The team under leadership of head department of pharmaceutical sciences at the institute Prof N Mishra has been working in collaboration with scientists from Germany and France for the past one year to develop a molecule that effectively works against Chikv, scientifically described as a complex protein molecule. Prof Sinha said that the first outbreak of Chikungunya was reported in South Africa but it suddenly surfaced in Indian cities—Ahmedabad and Chennai—in 2006 followed by yet another outbreak in Italy drawing global attention to the cause of disease. Chikungunya (also known as chikungunya virus disease or chikungunya fever) is a debilitating, but non-fatal, viral illness that is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. It resembles dengue fever.

“Till date there is no vaccine or medicine available for Chikv and the European agencies have decided to pump in resources to fund research on war footing,” he said. There is no specific treatment for chikungunya. Supportive therapy that helps ease symptoms, such as administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and getting plenty of rest, may be beneficial. Infected persons should be isolated from mosquitoes as much as possible in order to avoid transmission of infection to other people. In India, a major epidemic of chikungunya fever was reported during the last millennium viz.; 1963 (Kolkata), 1965 ( Pondicherry and Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Rajahmundry, Vishakapatnam and Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh; Sagar in Madhya Pradesh; and Nagpur in Maharashtra) and 1973, (Barsi in Maharashtra ). Thereafter, sporadic cases also continued to be recorded especially in Maharasthra state during 1983 and 2000.The states affected by chikungunya are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharasthra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Kerala. In the year 2006, total number of 13,90,322 suspected chikungunya fever cases were reported from the country. It again raised its head in Jharkhand recently taking a good number of toll in Jamshedpur and Ranchi but unfortunately most of the cases went unreported. From February 2006 to 10 October 2006, the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia has reported 151 districts in 8 states/provinces of India affected by chikungunya fever. The affected states are Andhra Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Delhi. More than 1.25 million suspected cases have been reported from the country, of which 752,245 were from Karnataka and 258,998 from Maharashtra provinces. In some areas reported attack rates have reached 45per cent.

Prof Sinha said that it was only after the outbreak of the disease in certain European countries that the global attention was drawn and present Indo-European project to research on developing a viable antidote for the disease was being funded by an agency named Indigo which aims at promoting cross country research on viruses that lead to the disease condition.

He further said that Chikv was a complex protein molecule for which a synthetic molecule has been developed at the research laboratory in BIT, Mesra Ranchi. “We do not have access to isolated Chikv strains which is there with my German collaborator Professor Rolf Helgelfeld of the University of Luebeck and the efficacy of synthetic molecule developed here could be studied only in their laboratory,” he said.

Sinha was invited by the organisers of EU-India Science & Technology Cooperation Days 2011 to deliver a talk at their International Conference, held at Vienna, Austria on December 01 and 02. He presented the progress report of his Indo-German Project, in collaboration with his German and French counterpart Bruno Canard. The projects are based on discovery of antiviral drugs for the treatment of chikungunya and dengue virus infections. He was accompanied by his co-researcher, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences Arijit Basu, and senior research fellows Surendra Jadav and Timir Ajay Kumar.

Prof Sinha said that they were more concerned about synthesising the molecule that was capable of breaking the protein structure of chikv whereas formulation of vaccine or medicine would depend upon further researchers by a separate team.

Chikungunya virus is an insect-borne virus, of the genus Alphavirus, that is transmitted to humans by virus-carrying Aedes mosquito. There have been recent breakouts of Chikv associated with severe illness. Chikv infection causes an illness with symptoms similar to dengue fever, with an acute febrile phase of the illness lasting only two to five days, followed by a prolonged arthralagic disease that affects the joints of the extremities.

The team of researchers from BIT are confident that the couple of synthetic molecules developed in the laboratory here are going to act on Chikv protein structure effectively which in turn would pave the way for development of either a vaccine or some medicine. “Since the pharmaceutical science and medical fraternity has little or no understanding about the behaviour of Chikv strains it would be premature to say that some breakthrought has been achieved,” he said futher clarifying that this could be a step forward to development of an effective medicine.

By Jaideo N Shandilya from Ranchi

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