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Researchers identify Achilles heel of dengue virus, target for future vaccines
Date:4/11/2012

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. A team of scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt University have pinpointed the region on dengue virus that is neutralized in people who overcome infection with the deadly pathogen. The results challenge the current state of dengue vaccine research, which is based on studies in mice and targets a different region of the virus.

"In the past researchers have relied on mouse studies to understand how the immune system kills dengue virus and assumed that the mouse studies would apply to people as well," said senior study author Aravinda M. de Silva, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the UNC School of Medicine.

"Our study for the first time shows what region the immune system of humans target when they are fighting off the virus. The region on the virus targeted by the human immune system is quite different from the region targeted by mice."

The new research, which will appear online during the week of April 11-14, 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was performed using blood cells from local travelers infected with dengue virus.

The global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades, putting about half of the world's population at risk. Creation of a vaccine is complicated by the fact that there are four distinct, but closely related forms of the virus that cause dengue. Once people have recovered from infection with one form of the virus, they have lifelong immunity against that form.

But if they become infected with one of the other three forms of the virus, they increase their chances of developing the severe bleeding and sometimes fatal dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome. The leading theory to explain why some people develop dengue hemorrhagic fever is that under some conditions the human immune response can actually enhance the virus and disease during a second infect
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Contact: Les Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-966-9366
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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