U.S. Scientists Assess Progress Of Dengue Vaccine At 3-Day Summit In Puerto Rico

During a meeting in Puerto Rico on Thursday to discuss recent progress towards fighting dengue, researchers voiced optimism over advances in the development of vaccines to prevent the spread of the virus, “which kills 25,000 people every year,” Agence France-Presse reports. The three-day summit was hosted by the NIH, CDC and PAHO, according to the news service.

“We have some very exciting leads on different types of vaccines that are in various stages of clinical trial that hopefully can be implemented with a reasonable period of time,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci said at a press briefing.

The news service describes how dengue is spread, the symptoms of the disease and the recent outbreaks of the illness around the world. For example, dengue “killed 1,167 people in Latin America last year,” and “[t]he Philippines recorded more than 730 deaths and Malaysia 134 in 2010, according to figures from the World Health Organization.” Additionally, Puerto Rico “recorded the largest outbreak in its history with 21,000 cases last year, according to the …[CDC]. There were 69 cases in the Key West section of the U.S. state of Florida in 2010,” and “India experienced a 20-year high in infections,” according to the news service.

The article notes the importance of surveillance, details researchers’ efforts to better understand factors contributing the spread of dengue and dengue prevention efforts. The article also includes comments by Harold Margolis, director of the CDC’s dengue center (2/17).

“Traditional control has meant reducing the number of breeding grounds for the mosquito, which lays its eggs in pools of standing water, but ‘we need other primary prevention tools,’ such as a vaccine, said Jose Luis San Martin, MD, of the Pan American Health Organization,” MedPage Today writes.

Fauci pointed to the meeting in Puerto Rico as “a sign of increased interest in the disease, as well as of a desire to build collaborative scientific relationships throughout the region,” the news service continues. “Another sign, he said, is his institute’s spending on dengue, which has risen from $5 million in 2000 to $30 million in 2005 and to $44.4 million last year. The bulk of that – some 68% – is directed to basic research, with 24% going to vaccines, 12% to treatments, and 2% to diagnostics, Fauci said” (Smith, 2/18).

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