“An epidemic of dengue fever in India is fostering a growing sense of alarm even as government officials here have publicly refused to acknowledge the scope of a problem that experts say is threatening hundreds of millions of people, not just in India but around the world,” the New York Times reports. Dengue is endemic in half of the world’s countries and continuing to spread, experts say, according to the newspaper. In India’s capital, New Delhi, “where areas of standing water contribute to the epidemic’s growth, hospitals are overrun and feverish patients are sharing beds and languishing in hallways,” the newspaper writes. With officials citing 30,002 cases of dengue in India through October, “a 59 percent jump from the 18,860 recorded for all of 2011,” several experts say the true number of infections in the country is in the tens of millions, the New York Times notes.
The Financial Times has published a special report (.pdf) on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) featuring 10 articles examining issues including prevention, research, and treatment.
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog reports that the Dengue Vaccine Initiative has launched a redesigned website, including a new blog that “will include regular posts about the disease, dengue in the news, the work of DVI and the development of a dengue vaccine” (9/17).
“A total of 8,480 people have been affected by dengue fever in Costa Rica” so far this year, representing an increase of 36 percent, or 2,230 more cases than during the same period last year, according to a Ministry of Health report, Xinhua News reports. “Among all the cases so far, only nine people were affected by hemorrhagic dengue fever, which is a more serious and sometimes mortal type of dengue, the report added,” the news service writes (9/17). Health authorities are urging people to eliminate possible sources of reproduction for mosquitoes, including disposing of old tires, according to a health ministry press release (9/11).
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.”