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The One and Only in Southeast Asia Researcher at Mahidol University Received Research Grant from Gates Foundation: A Seek for Cure to Combat Dengue Fever from Wolbachia Bacteria



Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pattamaporn Kittayapong, Head of the Excellence Center for Vector and Vector-borne Disease (CVVD), Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, and the principle investigator of A Seek for Cure to Combat Dengue Fever from Wolbachia Bacteria, was selected to receive research grant by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under the Grand Challenges Explorations Project. The research project is an innovation that explores into prevention and treatment of dengue fever without using synthetic compound. It is the only project in Southeast Asia, and one of 104 projects out of a total of 4,000 projects submitted. The research project led by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pattamaporn Kittayapong received funding of 3.3 millions Baht (100,000 US$) for a one-year research duration.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is set up to provide research grants to explore new frontier and undiscovered research, aiming at the development of health of the world. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pattamaporn has been conducting research on vector and viral disease and has discovered innovative approach to treating dengue virus. Recent findings showed that cells in certain mosquito species possess intracellular bacteria, living in the form of endosymbiosis, prevent the virus from attacking the mosquito cell. The research team thus hypothesized that the Wolbachia bacteria that live endosymbiotically may produce and secrete chemical compound that prevent the virus from entering the mosquito cells. The study compares mosquito that possess Wolbachia against those without. After inoculating the mosquitoes with dengue virus, the result showed that the mosquitoes that possess Wolbachia showed significant lower infection rate.

Post the infection study, the virus was removed, and the cells from mosquitoes with and without Wolbachia were obtained and studied. Proteomic was carried out to identify new protein or compound that Wolbachia may have produced to prevent viral infection. However, the research team acknowledged that new proteins or compounds may come from Wolbachia bacteria, virus, or the mosquito cells. Further analysis and testing are required.

"In the first year, the research goal is to prove the hypothesis that Wolbachia bacteria could produce chemical compound that effectively prevent viral infection. If it is found that the compound exists, the research in the first year would be considered successful. Upon reporting to the Gates Foundation, extension of research grant to phase 2 is possible, which would be 2 years and funding of 33 million Baht (1 million US dollars)." Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pattamaporn stated.

If the compound is identified, the research team is confident that they could proceed into synthesis of the protein as well as test it in clinical trial as either vaccine or drug to treat dengue fever. If the compound is not identified, study will continue to explore deeper into the molecular level.

"Vaccine for dengue fever is an going effort that has been pursued for over 20 years. Yet there is no vaccine. Since there are 4 strains of dengue fever, the effective vaccine should protect against every strain. Thus, it requires time to develop. Another alternative is to seek for anti-viral drugs against the virus." Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pattamaporn said.

The criteria in selecting the research grantee by the Gates Foundation in the phase 1 focuses on research that seeks to discover prevention or cure of the communicable disease such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as well as reduction of drug resistance. The scientist who receives this grant must demonstrate that the research project is beyond the current scientific boundary and has important application upon succeeding.

"This grant will stimulate Thai researcher to carry research out of the box more. This research grant emphasizes communicable disease of the tropical countries, which is suitable for our country. Grant selection emphasizes the project scheme without revealing information about the researcher. The selection committee aimed solely at the innovation, and they do not consider the background, homeland, or prestige of the organization. Thus, their selection process did not depend on the country nor if the grantee may have Nobel prize." Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pattamaporn acknowledged.


Post Date : January 8, 2009

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