Patients suffering from dengue fever at Pasar Rebo Hospital in Jakarta. (Pembaruan/Jurnasyanto Sukarno)
Dengue fever sufferers may have a new option in the treatment of the often fatal disease as Indonesian doctors have found that a chlorella extract, a genus of single-celled green algae, accelerates the recovery process and increases the chances of surviving the disease.
“Our latest study found that giving a chlorella extract to dengue fever patients increases the blood platelets and improves the hemoglobin, allowing patients to recuperate faster,” Dr. Adi Teruna Effendi, an internist who headed the research team, told a news conference on Thursday.
The study ran from April to October 2009, involving 84 serious dengue fever patients at the Karya Bhakti Hospital in Bogor under the supervision of researchers from the Indonesian Internists Association and the Faculty of Human Ecology at the Bogor Agriculture Institute.
Adi said the team divided the patients into two groups; the first getting the chlorella extract as a supporting supplement during treatment while the others received standard treatment as advised by the World Health Organization.
“Those who were given the chlorella extract stayed in hospital only 2.76 days on average, while those who didn’t stayed 4.4 days,” he said.
Adi said the quick recovery was the result of the chlorella boosting the body’s immunity system because of its high concentration of amino acid and a range of vitamins.
He said that chlorella worked as an inhibitor that prevented the dengue virus from replicating and decreased the chance of patients suffering from high fever.
“The supplement could shorten the patients stay in the hospital,” the doctor said.
During the study, Adi said, the team monitored the patients’ platelet and hemoglobin level everyday and those who were given chlorella extract showed impressive progress.
Adi said the findings had been reported to the Ministry of Health and received a positive response. “The ministry has asked us to research chlorella further to develop more possibilities,” he said, adding that scientists in Japan were also interested and wanted to collaborate on the study.
Unfortunately, he said, Indonesia was not yet able to produce the extract locally and had to import it from Japan.
“We already know how to grow green algae but we don’t have the technology to extract its certain substances yet,” he said.
Adi said chlorella could be consumed as a preventative medicinal supplement.
“The chlorella extract is quite expensive but people can take raw chlorella or the tablet to boost their immune system,” he said.