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

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"This is a huge issue for vaccine development," said lead study author Ruklanthi de Alwis, a graduate student in de Silva's lab. "We have to figure out a way to develop dengue vaccines that induce the good response that protects against infection, at the same time avoiding the bad response that enhances disease."

de Alwis looked at a particular subset of the immune response specialized molecules called antibodies. UNC investigators identified 7 local individuals who had contracted dengue during travel to an endemic region and sent blood cells from these individuals to Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Drs. Scott Smith and James Crowe at Vanderbilt were able to isolate dengue antibodies from these cells for further study at UNC. The team found that instead of binding to small fragments of the virus -- like mouse antibodies do -- human antibodies that neutralized the virus bound to a complex structure that was only present on a completely assembled dengue virus.

"Though this is the first time this phenomenon has been shown with dengue, just last year there were a number of studies showing that antibodies recognize similar complex epitopes in both HIV and West Nile Virus," said de Alwis. "New vaccines as well as those already in the pipeline will need to be assessed to see if they bind just a small fragment or the whole virus, which may determine whether or not they work in humans."


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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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