The incidence of dengue has increased 30-fold over the last 50 years. Up to 50-100 million infections are now estimated to occur annually in over 100 endemic countries, putting almost half of the world’s population at risk. To make matters worse, global warming is expanding the spread of dengue virus infection to new areas.
At the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Dr. Navin Khanna was involved in conducting dengue diagnostics research with DRDO funding. However, any project carried out with DRDO was meant to be confidential, while ICGEB’s mission is to provide know-how to its member countries. Hence, the team had no choice but to bypass the joint patent with DRDO to develop another version of the dengue test.
As knowledge about dengue advanced, the IGCEB team was able to design a combined three-in-one dengue antigen (NS1) and antibody (IgM, IgG) test. This ‘Dengue Day 1 test’ can detect dengue fever within minutes on day one of the fever, affordably, in resource-poor settings. It can differentiate between primary and secondary dengue virus infections, which is so vital for clinical management of dengue-infected individuals. Interestingly, it can also detect the presence of the virus in a mosquito!
The test kit is now a market leader in India, having captured more than 75% market share – till date, 10 million dengue tests have been sold. It costs is 3 to 4 times less than a conventional test. No wonder the test kit is being exported to other countries too!
Navin Khanna is Group Leader, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, and a recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri.
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