Dengue fever could be combated using a newly-identified antibody which appears to have a powerful neutralizing effect on the deadly virus.
The antibody 5J7 is able to completely destroy the virus which causes the disease, potentially providing a powerful new tool in treatment of the illness.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that can cause flu-like symptoms which can become dangerous. The condition has become more common in recent years, and half of the world's population is now at danger from the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease is most common in urban and suburban areas within tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. The condition is among the leading causes of death and illness for children in some Latin American and Asian nations.
"The Aedes aegypti mosquito lives in urban habitats and breeds mostly in man-made containers. Unlike other mosquitoes Ae. aegypti is a day-time feeder; its peak biting periods are early in the morning and in the evening before dusk. Female Ae. aegypti bites multiple people during each feeding period," WHO officials report.
Severe dengue, or Dengue hemorrhagic fever, was first recognized during epidemics in Thailand and the Philippines in the 1950's. Around 500,000 people are hospitalized each year with this more serious version of the disease, and about 2.5 percent of these patients die.
Four variants of the virus are known to cause illness in humans. Exposure to, and recovery from, one form of the disease provides lifelong immunity from that type of the virus, but can increase the risk of severe dengue following exposure by a different variant.
No treatment is currently available for Dengue fever, although early detection and medical care has reduced fatality rates below one percent. Somewhere between 284 and 528 million people are exposed to Dengue fever each year, although many cases are unreported, according to recent estimates. Almost 2.4 million cases of the disease were reported in 2010.
The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries around the world, up from nine nations in 1970. Developing treatments for the illness has been hindered by the presence of the four variants of the virus. The newly-identified antibody is able to attach to three points on the surface of the virus, including regions essential for the microorganism to invade cells.
"This kind of binding with the virus has never been observed and it explains why the antibody itself is so highly potent. The movement of virus surface proteins is highly essential for invading cells - you can think of antibody 5J7 locking the virus surface proteins, thus strapping the virus," Shee Mei Lok of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore (Duke-NUS) said.
Study of the role of 5j7 in protecting against Dengue fever was published in Nature Communications.