Study links protein to Dengue fever shock
The team, lead by UC Berkeley Molecular Virologist Eva Harris, found that a nonstructural protein (NS1) formed from infected cells is the main cause of fluid loss and leads to shock in the body. In tests involving human cells and animal models, they found that if the protein was blocked, the virus' lethality was eliminated.
"The role of NS1 itself had been overlooked in severe forms of dengue disease, but we now know that it is an important player," Harris said. "Our findings show that NS1 could be a prime target for drugs, and that it should be considered in vaccine development."
Without the virus attached, the protein is still able to cause blood cells to leak. Harris said that once fluid loss is occurring in a case, it can become fatal within one to two days.
Up to this point, dengue shock had been attributed to antibodies overreacting to a new serotype of the virus.
"What's exciting to me is that if we can make antibodies against this toxin and include them in a vaccine, we could potentially prevent a dengue infection from progressing to the more severe symptoms," UC Berkeley Researcher P. Robert Beatty, study author, said. "The findings open up new intervention strategies where few now exist."
Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease, and its associated complications lead to approximately 22,000 annual deaths.