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Waxing And Waning Of Dengue Epidemics Attributed To Cross-Immunity

Researchers at the University of Georgia have suggested that cross-immunity created in response to infection by one serotype or viral strain protect against infection // by related serotypes thus leading to the waxing and waning of the Dengue epidemics. This finding would help understand the pattern of this deadly mosquito-borne illness better.

"We found that since about the mid 1980s, there's been a sequential replacement of the dominant serotype," said lead author Helen Wearing, a post-doctoral researcher at the UGA Institute of Ecology. "So, for example, one year serotype three is 60 percent of the cases and the next year serotype two is dominant and so on. Epidemics of individual serotypes recur every eight to 10 years, but, at the same time, if you look at all the data together, you see about an average three-year cycle with some seasonal component to it."

In addition to helping resolve a long-standing debate in public health, the study, published this week in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, gives researchers a framework that can be used to create models that predict dengue outbreaks in both space and time.

"It's a framework that highlights the key elements you need to take into account while developing a forecasting model," Wearing said. "Because if you were to build a forecasting model without understanding the trends in cross-immunity, you would not necessarily predict what we observe."

The researchers examined 30 years of data from the government of Thailand and from a Thai clinic that keeps what is widely regarded as the most comprehensive set of data on dengue. Southeast Asia has been a dengue hot spot since the 1950s, but the researchers note that their model applies to other regions where all four dengue strains circulate.

The researchers compared the data with results from mathematical models that explore – both independently and collective
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