Dengue is spreading. Can new vaccines and antivirals halt its rise?

Colour-enhanced Transmission Electron Micrograph (TEM) showing a number of red round Dengue virus particles in a tissue specimen

Particles of dengue virus (pink; artificially colored) infect a tissue specimen. Dengue primarily impacts tropical areas however is spreading as temperatures heat.Credit score: Science Supply/SPL

Dengue is on the march. This yr, greater than 4.2 million circumstances of the illness, which is attributable to a virus transmitted by mosquitoes, had been reported by 2 October, in contrast with half 1,000,000 in 2000. And the illness, which was as soon as confined to the tropics, is spreading to new places world wide, together with southern Europe.

There isn’t a particular remedy for dengue, which is often known as breakbone fever and may trigger fever, bone ache and even loss of life. The out there vaccines have essential limitations, and controlling the mosquitoes that transmit the illness is difficult.

However scientists aren’t sitting idle. On the annual assembly of the American Society of Tropical Drugs and Hygiene, held in Chicago, Illinois, final month, researchers shared the most recent outcomes of their efforts to develop vaccines, antiviral medicines and mosquito-control strategies to curb the illness. Each out there software is required, they are saying.

“We’re seeing the emergence of dengue in areas the place we’ve by no means seen it earlier than,” Adam Waickman, an immunologist at SUNY Upstate Medical College in Syracuse, New York, stated in the course of the assembly. “Efficient dengue management goes to require multi-layered efforts.”

Virus of many faces

A key problem for vaccine improvement is that dengue is attributable to 4 distinct viral subtypes, or serotypes: DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4. “The right dengue vaccine would have 90% efficacy throughout all completely different serotypes and would have the identical stage of efficacy for individuals who have had a earlier dengue an infection and those that haven’t,” says Timothy Endy, an immunologist additionally at SUNY Upstate Medical College. “We’re not there but.”

Two dengue vaccines have obtained regulatory approvals up to now. Dengvaxia, a vaccine made by Sanofi in Paris, has a 60% total efficacy price1 in opposition to symptomatic dengue, however it is just beneficial for individuals who have had dengue earlier than. It’s because in those that have by no means been contaminated, the vaccine can truly exacerbate the chance of extreme illness after an infection by means of a mechanism referred to as antibody-dependent enhancement.

QDenga, a vaccine made by Takeda in Osaka, Japan, has up to now been proven to be protected for individuals no matter whether or not they have beforehand been contaminated, and it has an total efficacy price of 73% in opposition to symptomatic dengue2. Nevertheless it has proven decrease efficacy in opposition to DENV-3 and the outcomes for DENV-4 stay inconclusive.

A 3rd vaccine, TV003, has been developed by the US Nationwide Institute of Allergy and Infectious Illnesses in Bethesda, Maryland. It’s being examined by the Butantan Institute in São Paulo, Brazil, in a trial with greater than 16,000 members. In keeping with knowledge introduced on the ASTMH assembly, for members who had been adopted for 2 to 5 years, TV003’s total efficacy in opposition to symptomatic dengue was 80%.

“It additionally proved to be extraordinarily protected, particularly contemplating that nearly half of the research inhabitants had by no means had dengue earlier than,” says Maurício Nogueira, a microbiologist on the College of Drugs of São José do Rio Preto in Brazil and an investigator engaged on the trial. However investigators lack knowledge for some serotypes, as a result of DENV-3 and DENV-4 didn’t flow into broadly in the course of the research interval.

The vaccine might be helpful for individuals who stay in nations the place the virus is endemic and in addition for individuals travelling to those areas, says Nogueira.

Preventive capsule

On the assembly, the pharmaceutical firm Janssen in Beerse, Belgium, shared promising knowledge on an antiviral drug referred to as JNJ-1802 that’s aimed toward stopping dengue and is taken in capsule type.

The info are from a ‘human problem’ trial, during which volunteers are intentionally uncovered to a pathogen in a managed setting. Investigators gave wholesome members day by day doses of both the antiviral drug or a placebo for 26 days. On the fifth day of remedy, members have been injected with dengue virus.

Six of the ten members who obtained a excessive dose of the treatment had no detectable virus of their blood all through the research, whereas the entire placebo recipients had detectable ranges of virus 5 days after receiving the dengue injection. Most members who obtained low or medium doses of JNJ-1802 had detectable virus ranges sooner or later, however a day or extra later than the placebo group did.

The outcomes help “additional analysis of JNJ-1802’s efficacy in opposition to pure an infection with all dengue serotypes”, Anna Durbin, an infectious-disease specialist on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg College of Public Well being in Baltimore, Maryland, and a research investigator, stated on the assembly.

Nevertheless it may not be possible to provide a day by day capsule to entire populations in areas the place the illness is endemic. This technique may additionally be too costly for a lot of nations, says Endy. Furthermore, most circumstances of dengue are asymptomatic, which signifies that many individuals can be taking treatment to stop a illness that may most likely not give them any signs.

Nonetheless, Durbin says that the drug might be helpful to individuals travelling to areas the place dengue is prevalent.

Taking intention at viral carriers

Customary measures to manage dengue-transmitting mosquitoes, resembling using pesticides, have had restricted outcomes. The dengue service Aedes aegypti “is an extremely troublesome mosquito to do away with”, stated Cameron Simmons, an infectious-disease specialist on the World Mosquito Program, a non-profit group in Melbourne, Australia, on the assembly. “The established order will not be adequate, so we’d like new interventions.” One such technique is being trialled by the World Mosquito Program. The group releases mosquitoes contaminated with Wolbachia, a bacterium that competes with viruses resembling dengue and Zika, making the bugs much less more likely to transmit these ailments. In keeping with knowledge introduced on the assembly, city-wide deployment of modified mosquitoes in Colombia lowered the incidence of dengue by 94–97% in areas the place the bugs have been effectively established.


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