Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms typically begin three to fourteen days after infection. This may include a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash.
- People suffering from dengue can experience either a milder illness (fever, headache, joint/eye/bone pain, rash) or a more severe and potentially life-threatening illness (haemorrhage and circulatory collapse)
- Dengue is caused by a mosquito-borne virus called dengue virus, of which there are four types (DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3, DENV-4)
- Dengue virus infects 390 million people and causes 22,000 deaths every year; one person dies of dengue every 20 minutes
- Dengue virus is transmitted by two tropical/subtropical mosquito species, Aedes aegypti (the ‘yellow fever mosquito’) and Aedes albopictus (the ‘Asian tiger mosquito’)
- There are no medicines to treat dengue and the only available vaccine cannot be used in all situations; the best way to prevent dengue is to reduce mosquito populations
A major challenge is that we cannot yet accurately predict which dengue patients will experience milder disease symptoms, and which will go on to develop severe and potentially life threatening disease. This means that hospitals in endemic countries are overwhelmed with dengue patients during dengue outbreaks because they have to monitor all patients to make sure they do not develop the more severe disease. Medicines to treat dengue and a better vaccine that can be used safely in all countries are desperately needed.
We have a reasonably good idea of how prevalent dengue is in Asia and the Americas, but very little is known about the disease burden in Africa. We do know that the mosquitoes that transmit dengue virus are widely distributed across Africa, and we know that there is dengue disease on the continent. A better understanding of dengue in Africa is important to guide diagnosis, treatment, mosquito control and community engagement to help prevent disease.
The best available methods for preventing human dengue cases are to prevent transmission using mosquito control measures. These could be improved if we had a more complete understanding of how mosquito-borne viruses like dengue are transmitted by mosquitoes.
Studying how dengue virus causes the more severe haemorrhagic form of disease, so that we can eventually design new medicines to treat dengue.
Studying mosquitoes in the laboratory and in the field to understand how dengue virus is transmitted by mosquitoes to humans, so that we can eventually find new ways of blocking disease transmission.
Collaborating with scientists in Indonesia to provide training and resources to better study dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases in the field.
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