Cipta Vaksin HFMD Tempatan

Sentinext Therapeutics Sdn. Bhd. sedang mencipta sejenis vaksin untuk virus EV71 yang menyebabkan Penyakit Tangan, Kaki dan Mulut (HFMD), iaitu virus yang biasanya menyerang kanak-kanak dan bayi.

Virus HFMD itu boleh menyebabkan kanak-kanak yang diserang mengalami ulser melecet dalam mulut selain daripada keradangan kulit.

Kanak-kanak yang dijangkiti HFMD kerana jangkitan EV71 mengalami risiko lebih tinggi menghidap penyakit neurologi teruk yang boleh menyebabkan kematian.

“Di Amerika dan Eropah, HFMD tidaklah begitu ketara tetapi jangkitan di Asia semenjak tahun 1997 adalah berlainan. Sesetengah kes jangkitan EV71 mengakibatkkan kematian.

”(Oleh itu) perlu ada cara efektif bagi mengenali serta bertindak balas terhadap virus ini,” kata Zarifah Hussain Reed , Penolong Pengarah Penyelidikan Klinikal di Pusat Serantau Intervensi Penyakit Menular, Singapura.

Vaksin terhadap virus EV71 adalah antara usaha Sentinext’s mencari kaedah vaksin efektif terhadap virus tersebut.

Sentinext Theurapeutics ditubuhkan oleh Peter Wulff dan Profesor Jane Cardosa pada tahun 2009, dengan bertujuan mengeluarkan vaksin terhadap penyakit tropikal.

Malaria denggi

Menurut Wulff, Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif (CEO) Sentinext, pengeluaran vaksin terhadap penyakit berjangkit seperti malaria, denggi dan HFMD tidak mencukupi sedangkan penyakit berkenaan menyerang berbilion penduduk dunia terutama yang miskin.

”Tiada insentif kewangan yang mencukupi bagi syarikat – syarikat farmasi serta bioteknologi untuk mencipta vaksin-vaksin ini”, kata beliau.

Tetapi senario ini semakin berubah dengan bantuan badan-badan dermawan antarabangsa seperti Yayasan Bill & Melinda Gates dan ini telah menimbulkan minat daripada syarikat penjagaan kesihatan barat.

”Ia bagus kerana ada minat dari Amerika dan Eropah. Tetapi kita juga perlu berusaha untuk mencipta vaksin kita sendiri bagi penyakit di rantau ini”, kata Cardosa, Ketua Pegawai Saintifik Sentinext.

Cardosa telah berkecimpung dalam bidang penyakit berjangkit tropika selama 25 tahun.

Kehadiran Sentinext di Malaysia menggariskan keperluan mendapatkan vaksin dan terapi bagi penyakit berjangkit tropika dan pentingnya bagi mewujudkan syarikat terbabit dalam kawasan yang endemik.

Negara-negara barat mungkin mempunyai landasan daripada segi teknologi tetapi kebanyakan pakar-pakar penyakit ini berada di Asia. Kuncinya adalah pewujudan perkongsian Timur-Barat.

Bagi Wulff dan Cardosa, Sentinext merupakan contoh perkongsian tersebut.

”Dalam bidang penjagaan kesihatan, hasil kajian saintis Malaysia boleh dikembangkan dengan lebih efektif dengan melakukan kerjasama serta pengalaman komersial dari Amerika dan Eropah”, kata Wulff.

Sementara itu, kebanyakan vaksin mengandungi virus yang tidak aktif atau lemah yang bertujuan memulakan pengeluaran antibodi dalam sistem imun badan. Namun dalam beberapa tahun kebelakangan ini, ada yang mula mempersoalkan keselamatan vaksin yang seumpama.

Bagi Sentinext, vaksinnya menggunakan kaedah yang lebih konvensional dibandingkan pendekatan membina vaksin daripada partikel yang menyerupai virus (VLPs).

“Ia lebih kompleks secara saintifik tetapi lebih selamat”, kata Cardosa.

Sentinext kini sedang membina ‘partikel virus serupa’ yang boleh mimik atau meniru virus yang sebenar. VLP ini akan mencetuskan pengeluaran antibodi yang diperlukan untuk melawan virus ini jika berlakunya jangkitan.

“Dibandingkan dengan kaedah lama, kaedah ini mengelak dari memasukkan virus sebenar ke dalam badan yang boleh mengeluarkan kesan sampingan.

Bagaimanapun ia memang mencabar secara teknikal. Membina VLP bukan sahaja memerlukan kepakaran sains yang baik malahan pembentukan konsep dan teknik makmal yang intensif. Ia memerlukan tahap kreativiti yang tinggi serta kerja yang cukup rapi”, tambah Wulff.

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