Scientists at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, have identified similarities in how the body reacts to mosquito-borne dengue virus and bacterial infections, marking a significant breakthrough in treatment for Dengue fever.
Clinical trials for dengue fever treatment could begin within a year or more with the latest discovery.
University of Queensland Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences head professor Paul Young said: "We have discovered that the dengue virus NS1 protein acts as a toxin in the body, in a similar manner to the way bacterial cell wall products lead to septic shock in bacterial infections.
"For the past 20 to 30 years, researchers and pharmaceutical companies have been developing drug candidates to inhibit the body’s damaging responses to these bacterial infections."
According to Young, the link with bacterial infections will allow the researchers to re-purpose existing drugs, making a significant contribution to the dengue fever treatment.
The mosquito-borne dengue virus is an increasing problem in tropical and sub-tropical areas. It is estimated that more than 2.5 billion people in more than 100 countries are at risk of infection.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks dengue virus as the most important mosquito-borne viral disease in the world, as it is estimated to infect up to 400 million people every year.
In addition, around 500,000 cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever are diagnosed each year, with as many as 25,000 deaths.
Young added: "Given increased international travel and the prospect of climate change extending the range of the dengue mosquito, more people will be at risk."
"Despite this significant global health burden, no vaccine or drug has yet been licensed."
Image: The aedes aegypti mosqutio can spread dengue fever and other diseases. Photo: courtesy of The University of Queensland.