GEORGE TOWN - Malaysia appears to be heading nowhere with dengue research.
The plan to release genetically altered male Aedes mosquitoes so that they cannot breed with wild females has proven too costly and impractical.
Another plan for a dengue vaccine by a pharmaceutical company which was slated to be marketed next month was shot down by the Health Ministry since it was not satisfied with the research data.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the genetically changed mosquitoes were only useful in small areas but "dengue is all over the place" in Malaysia.
Dengue cases reached an all-time high of nearly 100,000 last year.
"We would have to flood the country with huge numbers of mosquitoes.
"We are concerned because nobody has studied the ecological effects of releasing such a huge number of genetically changed mosquitoes"
The genetic modification of Aedes came from Oxford University and Malaysia's Institute of Medical Research tested it in the laboratory in 2006.
Speaking to reporters after launching the 9th National Conference for Clinical Research here yesterday, Dr Subramaniam also said the dengue vaccine's clinical trials were completed and the pharmaceutical company wanted to market it.
"But the research data they gave us is not enough for us to use the vaccine on a large scale.
"We are back to square one with dengue research," he said.
He said Malaysia had to take the lead in dengue research.
"We cannot rely on developed nations for medical discoveries which tend to be skewed towards issues they face.
"Malaysia has our own set of medical problems so we need to scale up our research," he said.