THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Researchers find new strategy to fight dengue virus

Researchers from A*STAR's Singapore Immunology Network, Singapore's Novartis Institute of Tropical Diseases and the Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology announced on Tuesday that they have discovered a new method to battle dengue virus.

The new strategy, which overcomes previous challenges in vaccine development, works by crippling dengue virus' ability to escape the host's immune system. Dengue virus requires an enzyme called MTase in order to chemically modify its genetic material and escape detection. The researchers showed that by introducing a genetic mutation to deactivate MTase, the initial cells infected by the weakened MTase virus are recognized as foreign.

"There is still no clinically approved vaccine or specific treatment available for dengue, so we are very encouraged by the positive results with this novel vaccine strategy," Dr. Katja Fink, a team leader from SIgN, said. "Our next step will be to work on a vaccine formulation that will confer full protection from all four serotypes with a single injection. If this proves to be safe in humans, it can be a major breakthrough for the dengue vaccine field."

Previous studies showed that a sufficiently weakened virus is still strong enough to make protective immune response the best option for an effective vaccine.

"Dengue is a major public health problem in many of the tropical countries," Acting Executive Director of SIgN Laurent Renia said. "We are very delighted that our collaborative efforts with colleagues in Singapore and China have made a promising step towards a cost-effective and safe dengue vaccine to combat the growing threat of dengue worldwide."