Trials show early success of dengue vaccine

Early trials for a vaccine to prevent dengue infections, responsible for more than 5 million cases and 5,000 deaths in 2023, are underway and showing success, according to data published Feb. 1 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Cases of the mosquito-borne illness skyrocketed in 2023 across 80 countries, according to the World Health Organization, and climate change is largely to blame. The illness is carried by the Aedes aegypti species, which traditionally has lived in tropical climates, but as temperatures climb to levels certain regions do not typically see, new environments are becoming more habitable for the mosquitos. 

Rare cases even cropped up in certain parts of the U.S. in the last year.

For the study, which spanned three years, 16,235 participants were given the Butantan-DV vaccination or a placebo. Ultimately, they found that the vaccine efficacy was 80% across all age groups. 

Vaccine development for dengue is crucial as cases are expected to increase worldwide and infections in the U.S. will also be seen more frequently over the next decade. 

Not all cases of dengue are severe, but the ones that do turn into more serious illnesses have the potential to strain ICUs and children could be particularly at risk, David Vu, MD, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Stanford told Becker's in a previous interview.

"To be honest, I think that we will be caught off guard. I think that most of the healthcare systems in the U.S. are trying to prepare for the next pandemic and trying to learn from the most recent one," Dr. Vu said. "We are not well-prepared for tropical diseases. It's not something that is forefront in our minds… I think that it's quite possible for the children's hospitals to bear a disproportionate burden of dealing with severe dengue disease."

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