Worldwide consortium reforms understanding of dengue virus
Previously, scientists believed there were just four strains of dengue viruses and that each strain is genetically different than the others. Now, researchers have found that there are many more differences in the viruses’ antigenic properties, which are the outer surfaces of the virus that the immune system recognizes.
"We were surprised at how much variation we saw, not only between the existing four known types of dengue, but also within each type,” Leah Katzelnick, a researcher from the University of Cambridge Department of Zoology who began studying dengue after herself contracting the disease, said. “This means that hypotheses that put antigenic differences at the center of dengue epidemiology are now back on the table."
Up to 390 million people contract dengue virus infections every year. Approximately 25 percent of these people have all of the symptoms of fever, joint pains and headaches, and an estimated 500,000 people have complications that are potentially life-threatening, such as shock and hemorrhaging.
There are no vaccines for the virus, but this new discovery about the genetics of dengue fever give scientists new hope.