Living with Dengue
One billion people around the globe – or one in seven – suffer from a tropical disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Bayer is supporting the international community in the battle against these diseases as part of its corporate citizenship activities.
“All of my co-workers have had dengue fever, and I’ve had it twice already myself,” says Rodolfo Siqueira Rodrigues, a resident of Ubatuba, a city on the Atlantic coast of Brazil. Now the 23-year-old is afraid of developing hemorrhagic fever should he ever become infected again. “All of us are afraid of the fever, because then it really gets serious. If things go wrong, you could die of internal bleeding.” He did not go to his physician, Dr. Juan Matías Jaco, because Rodolfo learned it was pointless as no treatment exists for this disease anyway. “We can do nothing but treat the symptoms with plenty of fluids, fever-reducing drugs and painkillers,” says Dr. Jaco. Some 1,200 people in Ubatuba, a city with a population of 80,000, contracted dengue fever in 2014. Over 3,000 cases were reported in the first nine months of 2015 alone, and in the state of São Paulo as a whole, the total is up to 900,000. “Physicians in all specialties have dengue top of mind when making any diagnosis,” Jaco says.
One hundred million dengue infections are reported every year in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia. Like Rodolfo, however, many sufferers treat themselves and therefore do not show up in the statistics. According to WHO, the actual number of cases is closer to 390 million a year. “Half of the global population is threatened by this disease. Dengue has been named the disease of the future by WHO,” says Frederic Baur, head of Vector Control at Bayer. “The carrier of the disease, the tiger or Aedes mosquito, lives and breeds in the innumerable water reservoirs, both large and small, found in cities. Rising urbanization and possibly climate change are creating increasingly favorable habitat conditions for the mosquito.” Dengue fever is currently endemic in more than 100 countries and is continuing to spread. The disease can be curbed effectively by combating its vector.
dengue fever infections are reported worldwide every year in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia.
Bayer can help protect those at risk with larvicides to control mosquito larvae in water reservoirs and insecticide sprays to impregnate surfaces in residential buildings and on roadways. Bayer active ingredients for mosquito sprays also provide personal protection against bites. To prevent or break resistances to existing active ingredients, Bayer is also involved in several global research projects on new mechanisms of action. The company has considerably increased its overall investment in research into dengue fever in recent years. A new spray for treating building facades and municipal parks is now in the advanced stages of development. It is expected to be available by 2018 and promises an extended duration of action thanks to its resistance to rain and UV radiation.
While dengue fever can affect all population groups and receives widespread attention, other tropical diseases plague the poorest of the poor in our world. These diseases are referred to as “neglected tropical diseases.” In 2012, institutions such as WHO, the World Bank, international government authorities and companies such as Bayer joined forces under the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases to stem or, if possible, eliminate ten of these diseases by 2020, including Chagas disease, which is widespread in Latin America, and African sleeping sickness. Bayer has been supplying WHO with free drugs to treat these diseases for over ten years, and their active ingredients are on the WHO List of Essential Medicines. “We have guaranteed WHO continuous availability of the active ingredients and a free supply of the drugs for as long as African sleeping sickness and Chagas disease exist,” explains Kemal Malik, the member of the Bayer Board of Management responsible for Innovation.
Children swimming in a jungle river close to Ubatuba in Brazil’s São Paulo state: Dengue fever is a major problem in the region.
Rodolfo Siqueira Rodrigues from Ubatuba, Brazil, loves water sports. The warehouse technician has already had dengue fever twice. His doctor, Dr. Juan Matías Jaco (below), can only treat the symptoms.
“We can provide drugs to treat patients and offer solutions to control the vectors.”
Kemal Malik, member of the Bayer Board of Management responsible for Innovation
One particularly insidious tropical disease, known as river blindness, is caused by nematodes that produce millions of young inside the human body. The medicines available at present are only capable of controlling the parasites in the early stage of their development. The drug must therefore be taken for more than 15 years, the length of time that adult nematodes – which can grow up to 70 centimeters long – live in the human body. Together with the nonprofit Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), Bayer is currently developing a new drug that will be able to eliminate adult worms as well.
“Our corporate citizenship activities include supporting the fight against neglected tropical diseases. As a Life Science company we are uniquely positioned to do so, by both providing medicines to treat patients, as well as offering innovative solutions to control vectors,” says Malik.