Those with disease or suspect they have it can take part; free treatment for participants
PEOPLE with dengue, and those who suspect they have it, are being invited to take part in a study by researchers trying to find out more about the behaviour of the disease. Those suffering from it will receive free medical treatment, while those who test negative can still take part.
Researchers at the Dengue Research Clinic are looking into questions such as whether characteristics like age, gender or ethnicity can affect the impact of dengue. Anyone who has a fever of more than 37.5 deg C and symptoms such as muscle aches, joint pains or a rash could be eligible to participate.
Associate Professor Leo Yee Sin, head of the Infectious Diseases department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, said this kind of research is needed to help control the spread of dengue. Interested patients can ask for a referral letter from polyclinics or their general practitioner, or head directly to the clinic, based at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Communicable Disease Centre.
Those who have the disease will be required to travel there every day while they are ill for tests and monitoring. They will also have to go for a final visit about three weeks after recovering fully. Participants will be reimbursed for their travel expenses.
Dr Leo explained that patients who test negative can also be included in the study because their data could still help researchers understand the disease. One key area of research will be the use of ultrasound technology to measure the effect of dengue on fluid leakage from blood vessels and capillaries. Dengue patients are known to lose tiny amounts of water and proteins, which leak into other organs.
The research will help determine how this fluid loss correlates with how well a patient recovers, said Prof Leo. The clinic, which opened in January last year, has seen about 370 research volunteers so far. It also works with the National Environment Agency, which will approach residents living in dengue clusters to ask them if they want to take part in the study. The research comes amid a surge in dengue cases.
The total number of new cases soared past the epidemic level last week, when 211 people were infected – the highest weekly number in more than two years. It is currently the peak season for dengue, which typically lasts from June to October yearly. Doctors here are also seeing a slight rise in the number of dengue patients infected with a less common strain of the disease – Den 3. The proportion of dengue patients with this strain has risen from 7.8 per cent last year to 8.3 per cent now.
Late last month, a Den-3 outbreak was reported to have hit the Marsiling area, with more than 60 cases occurring since April. Den-2 has been the most common form of the disease since 2007. The predominant strain changes about every six to seven years. The most common predominant strains in Singapore have been Den-1 and Den-2. The last time Den-3 was the predominant strain here was in 1994, said the Ministry of Health. It was also the predominant strain in 1992. Dr Leo said it is not clear yet what the implications of an increase in Den-3 cases could be. However, it is possible that the strain could spread quickly because it is less common, which means many people do not have immunity against it.