Does taking papaya leaves “cure” dengue?

Helen Wong asked this question in Facebook

Hi, does this mean papaya leaves juice may be an alternative cure for dengue fever ? My doctor insisted it’s rubbish but I recovered slowly after 2x ‘force it down my throat due to the pungent smell & bitter taste

Thank you for asking. The quoted study Carica papaya Leaves Juice Significantly Accelerates the Rate of Increase in Platelet Count among Patients with Dengue Fever and Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever was conducted in Malaysia.
What basically this study showed is in a small group of 228 patients with mild dengue, there was a slight increase in the average platelet count at the 48 hour mark

The increase while “statistically significant” shows an average platelet count of about 80 x 10^9/l for those who took papaya leaves vs 70 x 10^9/l for those who did not i.e. a difference in average platelet count of only 10 x 10^9/l which is of doubtful clinical significance (normal platelet count ranges from 150-400 x 10^9/l)
What happens after the 48 hour mark is not known as the study does not mention this. The difference could be negligible for all we know.

Whatever you ingest, the platelet count will recover by itself usually starting by the 7-8th day of illness. Dengue fever in the vast majority is a self-limiting illness.
The misconception in the public lies in the over-rated importance of the platelet count. What is far more important than the platelet count is the fluid and hydration status. Dengue patients require adequate hydration, and patients sick enough to need admission will require intravenous fluids as the problem with dengue is shock and organ failure. Current national dengue guidelines de-emphasize transfusion of platelets and in fact there is little or no role for prophylactic transfusion of platelets.

In summary, no, papaya leaves will not “cure” dengue. We do not think the platelet count is significantly affected from a clinical perspective and this detracts from the more important point in the management of dengue which is adequate fluids and hydration.

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