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Dengue mutations amplify virus risk


Contrary to popular belief, genetic mutations in viruses don’t necessarily make them more dangerous. Sometimes, mutations can also cause viruses to weaken. However, in the case of dengue, the causative agent of a zoonotic disease currently stifling the local healthcare system, luck doesn’t appear to be on humanity’s side.
Professor Saeed Khan, who teaches Pathology at the DOW University of Health Sciences in Karachi, recently sounded alarms about possible genetic changes which he had noticed in local strains of the dengue virus.
“These variations are called serotypes in medical parlance,” the professor stated. Which in simpler terms refers to a group of intimately related microorganisms distinguished by a common set of antigen. Right now, what we are faced with are dengue serotype viruses DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4, which are capable of causing severe reactions among infected patients,” Khan explained.
While the DOW University of Health Sciences is still in the process of researching said variations, the professor believes dengue patients in the city have already started experiencing more critical complications, while the number of infected persons has also taken a flight.
According to Professor Saeed Khan, the complications could be related to a condition called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). People who are infected with a subsequent times with a different type of dengue virus are likely to experience ADE, in which the body’s immune response actually makes the clinical symptoms of dengue worse and increases a person’s risk of developing a much severe reaction.
As explored in a recently published story by The Express Tribune, the jump in dengue numbers in Karachi, appears to be linked to the suspension routine fumigation campaigns in the province and the monsoon season, which has lasted longer than expected this year.
Read More: Dengue on the rise in Pindi
Per figures released by office of the provincial health department’s director general, there were over 457 reported cases of dengue infections and five deaths across Sindh, during the course of September 2021 alone.
Whereas for Karachi, the condition seems to be rather threatening with over 110 reported cases of the virus in its Central District, 70 in Eastern District, 43 in South District, 35 in Korangi District, 30 in Western District and 26 in Malir District.
Per Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) Assistant Professor of Medicine Dr Mahmood Al Hassan, dengue patients in the city have been experiencing unusual complications, affecting kidneys and lungs. “It’s quite concerning how rapidly blood platelets are declining following virus invasion and there have been a number of cases with multi-organ failure at JPMC too,” the doctor expressed. “The government needs to launch an anti-dengue fumigation campaign on an emergency basis before situation escalates beyond control,” he cautioned, while speaking to The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2021.

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