The first-ever results from a dengue virus vaccine clinical trial aimed at showing effectiveness “provide signals rather than definitive answers, and a mixture of both promise and unresolved challenges,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, and Ciro de Quadros, executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, write in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog. “To date, these represent the most promising indications that a safe, effective vaccine to prevent dengue is technically feasible,” they continue, adding, “At the same time, the results on protection were inconclusive, somewhat inconsistent with the measured immune responses and uneven across the four strains included in the vaccine.”
“The leading candidate to become the world’s first vaccine against dengue fever was only 30 percent effective in its first large clinical trial, dealing at least a temporary setback to efforts to control a disease that threatens half the world’s population,” the New York Times reports. “Still, the study marked a milestone in the 70-year quest to develop such a vaccine, demonstrating that a safe and effective inoculation against dengue is feasible, researchers reported in a paper published online Monday in the Lancet,” the newspaper adds (Pollack, 9/10). “Tested among just over 4,000 children in rural Thailand who were badly exposed to the mosquito-borne fever, the vaccine had no side effects but only worked against three out of the four dengue strains,” Agence France-Presse writes (9/10).
“Saying dengue virus infections and deaths have mushroomed in recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a strategy report that sets a goal of cutting deaths in half and reducing cases by 25 percent over the next eight years,” CIDRAP reports. “The report, titled ‘Global Strategy for Dengue Prevention and Control,’ also sets a goal of estimating the true burden of dengue disease by 2015 — signaling how little is known about the global impact of the mosquito-borne illness,” the news service writes. “In general, the report says that the tools already exist to make a big dent in the dengue problem, but that better tools, particularly in the diagnostic realm, are urgently needed,” CIDRAP notes, adding, “Currently there is no licensed vaccine or specific treatment for dengue fever or its more serious complication, dengue hemorrhagic fever” (Roos, 9/4).
“The world’s first vaccine against dengue fever, being developed by French drugmaker Sanofi SA, protected against three of the virus’s four strains in a keenly awaited clinical trial in Thailand,” the company announced on Wednesday, Reuters reports (Hirschler/Regan, 7/25). “The vaccine actually generated antibody responses against all four strains of the virus, but for some reason, one strain was still able to infect children who received the vaccine, the company said, and scientists are now trying to figure out why,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Science Now” blog reports, adding, “Meanwhile, a much larger trial involving 31,000 adults and children is now under way in 10 countries in Asia and Latin America” (Maugh, 7/26). Reuters notes, “Other drug companies are also working on dengue vaccines but Sanofi’s product is several years ahead” (7/25).
“Research funded by the Dengue Vaccine Initiative (DVI) involving an economic analysis of producing a tetravalent dengue vaccine shows that the cost could be as low as $0.20 per dose with an annual production level of 60 million doses packaged in 10-dose vials,” a Sabin Vaccine Institute press release reports. The study, published in the July 6 issue of the journal Vaccine, “used data on a vaccine developed by U.S. NIH and the facilities of the Instituto Butantan in Sao Paulo, Brazil,” the press release notes, adding the findings “should provide confidence to ministries of health that they can aggressively plan for the inclusion of dengue vaccine in their immunization programs, as the vaccine should be available at a cost that even middle-income and developing countries can afford” (6/27).
Pacific Standard magazine examines efforts by researchers around the globe to biologically modify bugs to fight human diseases, such as dengue fever. “Biologically altering bugs isn’t entirely new; it’s been done for nearly half a century to protect crops. … It’s only recently, however, that scientists have begun experimenting with using this technology to combat human diseases,” the magazine writes, adding, “If they succeed, they could create an entirely new way of stopping not only dengue but other insect-borne scourges, such as yellow fever, West Nile virus, and malaria. And stopping these diseases has never been more urgent.”
Reuters reports on efforts to develop a vaccine for dengue fever, writing that “victory over … the intensely painful ‘breakbone fever’ … may be in sight.” Paris-based firm Sanofi “hopes for positive results in September from a key trial among children in Thailand that would set it on course to market a shot in 2015, which would prevent an estimated 100 million cases of dengue infection each year,” the news service writes, noting, “Of 20,000 annual deaths, many are of children.” According to Reuters, “Results from that clinical study, in what is known as the Phase IIb of the international standard three-stage process of assessment, are expected in the third quarter” and “will also be presented for scientific scrutiny at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta in November.”
“The costs of treating and coping with dengue fever in Puerto Rico total nearly $38 million a year, a new study,” published Wednesday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, finds, according to U.S. News & World Report. “It also said that every $1 spent on surveillance and prevention of the mosquito-borne disease could save $5 in illness-related costs,” the news service reports (5/2). “A team of researchers from Brandeis University says households in the U.S. territory pay almost half of that cost, with the government and insurance companies splitting the rest,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (5/2).
Sri Lankan Health Officials Report Increase In Number Of Dengue Cases In First Quarter Compared To 2011
Sri Lankan health authorities “have reported a three-fold increase in the number of recorded dengue fever cases in the first quarter of this year,” IRIN reports. According to the national Epidemiology Unit, “9,317 dengue cases and 38 deaths were reported in the first three months of 2012, [compared with] 3,103 in the first quarter of 2011,” the news service writes, noting that more than half of the cases were recorded “in the country’s Western Province, where most of the island’s 20 million inhabitants live.” Intermittent rain, which allows stagnant water to collect and create mosquito breeding grounds, are expected to continue through April, and “[h]ealth officials agree that removing mosquito breeding sites is the most important step in mitigating risk,” according to IRIN. “In May 2010 the government launched a campaign to curb the spread of the disease,” and last year the number of cases dropped when compared to 2010, the news service notes (4/11).
“The incidence of dengue has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades,” the WHO writes in an updated fact sheet about dengue and severe dengue published on the organization’s website. According to the fact sheet, “Over 2.5 billion people — over 40 percent of the world’s population — are now at risk from dengue,” and “WHO currently estimates there may be 50-100 million dengue infections worldwide every year” (January 2012).