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Tiger moth disease mimics chikungunya and dengue during epidemics in Kerala

 A study conducted by Aster MIMS Research Foundation has revealed that suspected chikungunya and dengue cases in Kerala are in fact a case of lepidopterism– a disease caused by tiger moths. The study was led by Dr. PJ Wills, senior scientist of Aster MIMS Research Foundation which is associated with Aster MIMS Kozhikode. This research has been published in PLOS ONE, a leading peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science (PLOS) since 2006.

Occurring during the monsoon season, Lepidopterism caused by tiger moths is a serious illness that mimics the symptoms of mosquito-borne infectious fevers.

The primary cause of these fevers have been identified as Tiger Moth Asotacaricae which iswidely distributed across Asia and Pacific Islands, and is known to multiply at an alarming rate in Kerala from June to August.The emerging adult moths extricate their body scales and fluids and skin contact or inhalation of which leads to severe cutaneous eruptions and/or systemic complications. The study conducted on fever patients’ that yielded negative results for chikungunya and dengue found positive for tiger moth specific IgE allergens. In Kerala, an epidemic of fever characteristic to chikungunya and dengue like symptoms including fever with chills, headache, vomiting and diarrhea, severe arthralgia, rashes, platelet drops, respiratory disorders, hepatic and renal failure which eventually prove fatal.


Dr. Rahul Menon, CEO, Aster MIMS

The research findings will provide new insights in the proper diagnosis and applied clinicaltreatment to the fever patients and can avert clinico-pathological complications and large number of deaths owing to symptomatic treatment. Researchers suggest specific Tiger Moth IgE allergen test must be included as a routine test along with the diagnosis of infectious fevers in areas where the Tiger Moth’s distribution has been reported. The Tiger Moth caterpillars forage on invasive host fig, Ficushispida(Paarakam in Malayalam) which is widely distributed in the state and their heavy population explosion can be checked by removing the invasive host plants in the region.

Speaking on the path-breaking research, Dr. Rahul Menon, CEO, Aster MIMS said, “Corporate sector hospitals are normally not very keen on scientific research,but at Aster MIMS, we have a full-fledged dedicated research team working under Aster MIMS Research Foundation. Investing in research is the key in being able to provide better medical care to our patients, particularly in the areas of tropical diseases which cause several deaths every year.”

 Speaking at the launch of the research Dr.KarthikeyaVarma, Director, Aster MIMS Research Foundation said, “Aster MIMS Research Foundation is registered under Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Government of India. Research done here are patient centric or patient benefit oriented and this study is an example of that. While this is one of our first major breakthroughs, we at Aster MIMS Research Foundation are working on a spectrum of topics including diabetics, sepsis and cancer among other areas that impact us all. I would like to congratulate Dr. Wills and the team on this research and for all their future endeavors”

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