JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 168

Bridging the gaps in infectious disease research: Dengue, TB and Influenza

Dr. Raul V. Destura, Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the National Institutes of Health

“Research gaps are unmet needs in your research. You have to identify what is really needed in the field and have an open mind,” explained Dr. Raul V. Destura, Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the National Institutes of Health (IMBB-NIH) in a lecture organized by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) last March 01, 2012.

“There are gaps in infectious diseases research that need to be identified and addressed, especially in these three diseases – dengue, tuberculosis and influenza,” said Dr. Destura.


In the case of dengue, it is one of the most significant arthropod-borne viral diseases in the world, causing 50-100 million cases of dengue fever per year. Currently, no vaccines or drugs are available to treat or prevent dengue infection.

According to Dr. Destura, “There is a need for early case confirmation and identification of cases at risk, standardize validation of treatment algorithms, development of vaccines to prevent dengue infection and an outbreak prediction technology.”

Tuberculosis (TB), on the other hand, is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. In 2010, there were 8.8 million incident cases of TB, 1.1 million deaths from TB among HIV-negative people and an additional 0.35 million deaths from HIV-associated TB.

However, Dr. Destura reported that new findings showed that the absolute number of TB cases has been falling since 2006 and estimates of the number of deaths from TB each year has decreased.

“To stop the spread of TB globally, the world needs new TB drugs that will shorten treatment and be effective against susceptible and resistant strains. There is a need for new vaccine that is both effective and safe for children, adolescents and adults, including people infected with HIV. Better TB diagnostics are needed too,” said Dr. Destura.

Meanwhile, Influenza is a viral infection that affects mainly the nose, throat, bronchi and, occasionally, lungs. In the Philippines, there is currently no existing database about influenza. Present data on influenza only includes basic information and infection rates and little is available on epidemiology and drug-resistance.

Some of the identified gaps and needs in influenza research are the determinants of transmissibility which involves infectious dose studies; impact of intervention which involves community trial on the effect of medications which relieve symptoms; and vaccines and their use.

Sharing his guiding principles, Dr. Destura concluded, “We should all strive to actively participate in the national and global effort to alleviate diseases of poverty by building on existing local research strengths and growing international collaboration, providing excellence and innovation in the field of research, training health professional and sharing health knowledge.