Indian Council of Medical Research to prioritise vector-borne diseases

The centre t launch a series of studies to investigate various aspects of disease


Dengue, one of the most difficult diseases to contain, will be a priority area for the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), along with other vector-borne diseases.

May 16 is National Dengue Day.

Vector-borne disease control will be one of the top 10 priorities of ICMR. The centre will launch a series of studies to investigate various aspects of the disease, including research on vector control.

Addressing a symposium organised by ICMR in partnership with Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Rajiv Bahl, secretary, Govt of India, Department of Health Research and director general, ICMR, said, “As the vector is changing, we need to find new solutions to tackle it”.

He said ICMR is working on the country’s first dengue vaccine, but there is a need for affordable molecular-based point-of-care diagnostics. “We can find solutions if we apply our minds like we did during Covid,” he added.

Each year, the country sees anywhere between 2 to 2.5 lakh cases of dengue. Dengue is considered a year-round and nationwide risk in India, with the highest risk typically between June and September. While the monsoon months are most conducive for the growth of the vector, given that rain patterns have become erratic, the disease can precipitate any time now.

What makes dengue doubly dangerous is that a single virus (aedes aegypti) can infect upto 85 people in one go and that causes the rapid spread of the disease.

Tanu Jain, director, National Centre for Vector Borne Diseases Control, said, “Intersectoral coordination is the weakest link to control dengue. It is not only a health problem. Behavioural change communications campaign among all stakeholders and communities can help contain dengue”.

The strategic framework and roadmap for dengue control in India has the goal of zero deaths due to dengue by 2030. According to data from the NCVBDC, in 2022 there were 2.3 lakh reported infections in the country and 303 deaths. The most deaths were reported from Punjab.

Kavita Singh, director, DNDi-South Asia, spoke about the Dengue alliance- a global partnership led by institutions from dengue-endemic countries that aim to develop affordable and accessible treatments for dengue.