Scientists have laid out another piece of the puzzle that may lead to obtaining a cure for the mosquito-borne disease dengue.

The deadly virus infects around 400 million people in the world each year. Currently, there is no known licensed cure to the disease.

An international team of researchers from the Duke NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, Vanderbilt University, University of North Carolina and University of California, Berkley teamed up to identify dengue stereotypes, in the hopes of developing a treatment for the virus.

The findings of a study on the dengue virus stereotype 2 (DENV-2) antibody 2D22 were published on July 3 in the online journal Science.

In the study, research fellow Guntur Fibriansah and associate professor Shee-Mei Lok led the researchers from the Duke NUS Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme showed how DENV-2 is neutralized by a potential human antibody.

"The virus injects its own genes in the cell to make more of itself," said Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Vaccine Center director and co-author of the study James Crowe. He noted that the monoclonal antibody blocks human infections at the cellular level. It stapes the dengue virus closed so that the virus cannot inject its own genes into the cells.

Dengue virus has four stereotypes - DENV-1, 2, 3 and 4. An effective dengue vaccine should incorporate four antibodies that respond against these four stereotypes. Because the four stereotypes require different levels of protection, it has not been easy coming up with a vaccine for the virus.

For DENV-3, an antibody called 5J7 was found to be highly effective. For DENV-1, protection has been found to be poor. For DENV-2, protection has not been tested effective in clinical trials yet.

The EID research noted that the DENV-2 stereotype is more complicated than the rest of the stereotypes, because of a highly dynamic structure in the virus. It changes its morphology as it infects humans making it more difficult to be killed.

With the four dengue virus stereotypes, Professor Lok is strategizing to create a vaccine that combines four antibodies inhibiting infection of each of the stereotypes. At the moment, her colleagues are working on identifying a DENV-4 antibody to have the complete set of antibodies which will take them just another step closer to bringing a dengue vaccine to reality.

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