Bayer Joins Public Health Partners to Launch Multi-Year Research Effort Focused on Dengue Prevention

iDEM consortium announces collaborative approach to control vector-borne disease and reduce impact on global health systems and economies.

(June 15, 2020) – Today, on ASEAN Dengue Day, which is observed throughout the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, Bayer and a consortium of public and private sector partners formally announce a multi-year, collaborative research effort to combat one of the world’s fastest-growing endemic diseases. The Intervention for Dengue Epidemiology in Malaysia (iDEM) program aims to reduce the threat to public health and global economies caused by dengue. iDEM is focused on reassessing a traditionally reactive approach to treating dengue and other vector-borne diseases, working to instead demonstrate the effectiveness of ongoing management programs that are grounded in prevention.

“Since the global incidence of dengue has increased 15 fold over the last two decades and represents a total global economic burden of nearly $9 billion, a reimagined prevention-first approach holds great promise for improved public health and its subsequent impact on world economies and societies” said Frederic Baur, Head of the Vector Control business unit at Bayer.

ASEAN Dengue Day serves as a reminder of the importance of improved control and prevention against illness or life-threatening disease caused by dengue, which today puts roughly half the world’s population at risk. Dengue is a viral, mosquito-borne infection threatening communities in more than 100 countries and for which no cure currently exists, making it crucial to demonstrate how proper vector control can help combat the spread of the disease. During the coronavirus pandemic, when health systems and hospitals across the globe are often strained and at capacity, the need for increased focus on eradicating the threat of preventable vector-borne disease has never been greater.

The iDEM consortium, in collaboration with public hospitals, universities, research centers and nonprofits, such as the Université affiliated Hospital ‘(Lyon France), is the first of its kind to seek to demonstrate a link between innovative prevention measures and a quantified, reduced rate of dengue occurrence. Led by the Ministry of Health of Malaysia and supported by Bayer and other leaders in public health, such as the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) and In2Care, the iDEM program recently commenced its full-scale implementation and is expected to continue through 2022.

Using Malaysia as the program’s pilot launch due to the prevalence of dengue in the country and its expansive local infrastructure for the surveillance of the disease, iDEM has put a proactive integrated vector management (IVM) system in place. In response to increasing resistance to insecticides used in vector control, iDEM’s integrated approach uses both chemicals and biologicals with different modes of action, targeting various mosquito life-cycle stages. Through a sample size of 300 localities covering more than 700,000 of the country’s inhabitants, iDEM’s trials are designed around two groups: one that continues to receive only the standard treatment for managing dengue, and the other that receives this standard treatment in addition to the preventive measures put in place by iDEM. The trials will measure the number of dengue cases observed in both groups over a period of two years and seek to demonstrate a minimum 30 percent decrease in dengue infections.

The iDEM program follows a three-pronged approach:
• targeted outdoor residual spraying (TORS) managed by experienced pest control operators (PCOs), which controls mosquitoes spreading dengue;
• user-friendly In2Care autodissemination devices in densely populated urban areas such as high-rise buildings, which support ongoing management of dengue-carrying mosquito populations and target hard-to-find breeding sites, and;
• a robust, active community engagement program that focuses on ongoing communications with local citizens to enhance education and interaction with the program’s efforts.

iDEM program leaders anticipate their efforts will also contribute to greater understanding of the potential that IVM holds for controlling other Aedes mosquito-borne diseases. Health officials around the world, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have stressed the importance of IVM methods in the prevention of diseases such as dengue, Zika virus, malaria and chikungunya.

This preventive approach is not only beneficial from a public health perspective but also in terms of public funding; the estimated economic toll imposed by dengue in Malaysia alone amounts to $102 million per year. When direct costs (such as hospital services) and indirect costs (such as productivity losses and premature deaths) are lowered through a focus on prevention rather than reactive treatment methods, the amount of public funding needed to combat dengue is expected to dramatically decrease.

For those interested in learning more about the consortium’s efforts, a public webinar will be held Thursday, July 9, 2020, at 15:00 hrs (UTC +08:00) giving members of the public a chance to hear directly from the experts collaborating on the iDEM program and pose questions for them in real-time. To learn more and register for the interactive webinar, visit go.bayer.com/bayerwebinar.