Malaysian researchers have found a new way to treat dengue fever .
By Susan Tam
You know that papaya tree in your backyard? It’s got a secret remedy.
Here’s what it is: While we know that the papaya fruit is a great source of vitamins A and C, its leaves hold the possible answer to treating dengue fever.
This is what a group of Malaysian researchers have found: juice extracted from papaya leaves helps increase the platelet count in patients with dengue fever. To put this in perspective, there has been no real cure to a serious dengue infection to date.
Dengue has plagued Malaysia since 2002, with a whopping 20,000 case reported last year.
All doctors and nurses can do at the moment is provide treatment - known as supportive treatment - to manage the infection in patients. This means that a person suffering from dengue fever or dengue hemorrhagic fever will only be treated with either fluids or blood transfusions, to manage the symptoms of the disease. Unfortunately, this type of treatment does not always work.
All that may just change with this discovery.
So what does this new research tell us? Led by Dr Soobitha Subenthran, a team from the Institute for Medical Research in Kuala Lumpur discovered that the 'carica papaya' leaf juice helps increase platelet count in patients with dengue fever. Their results were published in March, in an Egyptian-based medical journal called, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, published by Hindawi Publishing Corporation.
Carica Papaya is a fancy name for the typical papaya tree you see growing all over Malaysia. The team tested the juice to make sure that it is safe for human consumption. They then worked with teams from the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang to conduct clinical trials on 228 patients with dengue fever and dengue haemorrhagic fever.
Half of the patients received 50 grams of fresh papaya leave juice for three consecutive days while the rest received standard treatment. While the treatment was administered, the team studied the patients' blood count for two days. They found that the platelets in the blood of the patients that received the juice had increased significantly.
Why is platelet important in treating dengue fever? This disease causes severe bleeding, so boosting platelet in the patient's blood helps him or her overcome the worst of the fever.
The breakthrough in this government-funded research is important because previous attempts to find a cure for dengue faced many obstacles, including having to deal with mutations of the virus.
“It can be concluded that the administration of 'carica papaya' leaf juice in dengue fever is safe and does induce the rapid increase in platelet count.
“It may play a valuable role in the management of DF in the near future,” the team wrote in their concluding remarks of the paper.
You can read more from the actual research paper here.
The rest of the team comprised of Tan Chwee Choon, Kee Chee Cheong, Ravindran Thayan, Mok Boon Teck, Prem Kumar Muniandy, Adlin Afzan, Noor Rain Abdullah, and Zakiah Ismail.