Cuba to launch clinical trials of anti-dengue fever vaccine

According to the research director of the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Cuban health authorities anticipate a launch of clinical trials of an anti-dengue fever vaccine later this year.

Gerardo Guillen said that the vaccine is now being tested on monkeys and will move on to human clinical trials pending satisfactory results. While dengue fever is not endemic in Cuba, the potentially fatal disease is considered a major problem in Latin America where more than one million people were infected in 2010, reports.

"Research has shown its effectiveness in controlling the multiplication of the virus in these animals," Guillen said, according to "(The results may show the) possibility of protecting against the disease."

Guillen made the announcement at the 2012 International Biotech Congress in Havana. He said that obtaining an effective and approved vaccine could take years before being administered in humans.

The initiative against dengue was initiated by former President Fidel Castro more than 30 years ago after a major outbreak in 1981 that killed 256 people, including 181 children.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly half of the world's population is at risk of being exposed to dengue fever. There are currently no vaccines against the disease, though several pharmaceutical corporations make vaccines that use the virus itself to combat the disease in newborns.