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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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NIH Scientists Discuss Opportunities for Dengue Research in the Americas

Dengue fever is re-emerging as a disease of public health importance in the Americas. While efforts to control the disease have had moderate success, many opportunities exist for further research, according to a new paper by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Pan American Health Organization.

A viral, mosquito-borne disease that can cause high fever and joint and muscle pain—and in severe cases, internal bleeding and death—dengue affects about 50 to 100 million people worldwide every year. There are four subtypes of dengue virus, and re-infection with a different subtype can cause more severe disease. No specific treatment exists; medical guidelines suggest bed rest and fluids for people with uncomplicated infection. Those with severe disease may require emergency care or hospitalization.

In the Americas, the focus of this new report, dengue epidemics have been recorded since the early 17th century. Since then, regional health officials have joined forces on disease control efforts such as surveillance, laboratory testing and patient care. However, the authors write, there remains a need for research to find better tools to prevent and treat dengue fever. Research opportunities in the Americas include

  • Investigating the immune system’s response to infection and re-infection
  • Developing point-of-care diagnostic tests that combine multiple assays to yield an accurate and definitive result
  • Designing new antiviral drugs, spurred by recent insights into how the virus replicates
  • Identifying dengue-specific treatments that are effective without being toxic
  • Investigating interactions between the virus, mosquitoes that transmit the virus and the environment, and how these interactions affect virus survival and disease transmission
  • Studying mosquito feeding behavior, ecology and mechanisms of insecticide resistance
  • Developing safe and effective vaccines for all four dengue subtypes

The article concludes with a discussion of future directions for dengue research and the importance of blending clinical and basic research through collaborative, integrated programs.

CA Laughlin et al. Dengue research opportunities in the Americas. Journal of Infectious Diseases. DOI: 10.1093/infdis/jis351 (2012).

NIAID Director and study co-author Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., and other NIAID authors are available to discuss this study.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID website.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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Last Updated July 10, 2012

Last Reviewed July 09, 2012