Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New understanding of dengue virus points way to possible therapies for dengue fever

Doctors have no specific drugs to treat dengue fever, a viral illness spread by mosquitoes that sickens 50 million to 100 million people worldwide each year. Instead, the only treatments they can recommend for this painful and sometimes fatal illness (20,000 deaths globally each year) are fluids, rest and non-aspirin pain and fever reducers.

Now, researchers have identified cellular components in mosquitoes and in humans that dengue virus uses to multiply inside these hosts after infecting them. Their findings could lead to the development of anti-dengue drugs that would inhibit one or more of these host factors, thus curtailing infection and the development of disease.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, funded the research, which was led by Mariano Garcia-Blanco, M.D., Ph.D., of Duke University Medical Center. The research appears in the current issue of the journal Nature.

"In this important study, Dr. Garcia-Blanco and his collaborators have greatly expanded the list of candidate targets for dengue drug development," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "Their discovery should spur a better understanding of how dengue virus causes illness and open new avenues for developing specific treatments for a disease that exacts a huge global burden."

All viruses co-opt parts of the cells they invade, but dengue virus is believed to require many such host factors because it has very little of its own genetic material, says Dr. Garcia-Blanco. Yet only a handful of mosquito or human dengue virus host factors (DVHF) have been identified to date, he adds, because researchers lack the tools for determining the functions of mosquito genes.

To overcome this barrier, the researchers turned to a familiar lab animal, the fruit fly. Mosquitoes and fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) are closely related, and researchers have multiple tools for determining Drosophila gene functions, notes Dr. Garcia-Blanco.

The Duke researchers screened test-tube-grown Drosophila cells to find any fly gene components used by dengue virus. They employed a technique called RNA interference (RNAi) to selectively turn off, or silence, Drosophila gene segments and identify those that dengue virus requires for efficient growth. The screen turned up 116 DVHFs, of which 111 had not previously been identified as host factors.

The scientists also used RNAi and live mosquitoes to test whether silencing select DVHFs impaired the ability of dengue virus to infect the gut tissue of the insects. They found that silencing a specific mosquito gene greatly impaired the capacity of the virus to multiply in the mosquito. This finding, though preliminary, raises the possibility of selectively inhibiting dengue virus growth in mosquitoes, says Dr. Garcia-Blanco. For example, a spray containing inhibitory chemicals might be developed that would be used not to kill the mosquitoes, he says, but to make them a less effective carrier of dengue virus. Because these envisioned drugs would not target the virus directly, but rather a host factor, the virus would have less opportunity to develop drug resistance, Dr. Garcia-Blanco adds.

The 116 DVHFs discovered through the Drosophila screen included 42 that the investigators found to have counterparts in humans. Like the mosquito DVHFs, these newly discovered human DVHFs may serve as targets for new kinds of RNAi-based drugs, says Dr. Garcia-Blanco.

"Our research is motivated in part by a desire to understand how these tiny viruses manage to live in two such unrelated organisms as mosquitoes and humans," says Dr. Garcia-Blanco. "But we should also keep in the front of our minds—not the back—the magnitude of suffering caused by dengue fever to millions around the world. Our study is a big leap in terms of the amount of information we have about dengue host factors and this information could, we hope, be applied in ways that will help people."

Dr. Garcia-Blanco's collaborators included NIAID grantee George Dimopoulos, Ph.D., and others from Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. NIAID grantee Priscilla Yang, Ph.D., and others from Harvard Medical School also contributed to the new research.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

The National Institutes of Health (NIH)—The Nation's Medical Research Agency—includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

Reference: OM Sessions et al. Discovery of insect and human dengue virus host factors. Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature07969 (2009).

Visit NIAID's Dengue Fever page for more information on this disease (

Anne A. Oplinger | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Development and Fast Analysis of 3D Printed HF Components

19.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Signaling Pathways to the Nucleus

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>