Saturday, May 2, 2009

Promising development in the treatment of dengue fever

A new hope has emerged regarding treatment of dengue fever virus. Dengue is of personal interest to me, as I know two colleagues who suffered dengue while we were all working on a project in the Philippines (so please exert caution and be liberal with your bugspray/mosquito nets/etc., all of you who plan on doing any type of work abroad...) According to the WHO, as much as half of the world's population is at risk of infection, and millions of people are infected worldwide each year.

Full text is here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090422132840.htm

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have been able to identify proteins necessary for the development and growth of the dengue fever virus. Dr. Mariano Garcia-Blanco, senior author of the Duke study, was able to do this via the silencing of genes using a technique called RNA interference, or RNAi, in fruit flys. This technique was performed on one gene at a time, with all 14,000 fruit fly genes! The process ultimately yielded 116 possible host factors, with one host factors identified as necessary for dengue infection in mosquitos, and about 41 of them identified as important to human infection. According to Garcia-Blanco, each of the identified host factors is a potential target for treatments aiming to stop or slow dengue infection.

Currently, there are few existing treatment for patients with dengue fever and no preventative measures available, which is why the Duke study is a significant step forward in the development of dengue fever treatment. Hopefully this new knowledge will speed up the current development of effective dengue-targeting vaccines and treatments.

-Andrew Plan

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