A team of biologists announced yesterday a major breakthrough in the research of dengue viruses, saying they had found an antibody that could reduce the chances of death from dengue infection in mice.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers at Academia Sinica and several leading universities in the fields of immunology, microbiology and life science. The results were published in the world’s top science journal, Nature, last Thursday under the title “CLEC5A is critical for dengue-virus-induced lethal disease.”
Dengue fever can be caused by four strains of viruses. When an individual is infected by one of them, he or she gains immunity from that strain for life. But if the individual is infected by another strain of dengue, he or she could be stricken by the fatal dengue hemorrhagic fever and suffer dengue shock syndrome.
Hsieh Shie-liang (謝世良), a professor at National Yang Ming University’s Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, said dengue fever affects about 50 million people per year worldwide.
Of these, 250,000 to 500,000 were cases of hemorrhagic dengue fever with a 5 percent mortality rate, he said.
To date, there are no specific treatments for or vaccines against the dengue virus, Hsieh said at a press conference.
Anti-inflammatory medicines can be used to prevent inflammation that can spark dengue hemorrhage, but those drugs also depress the immune system’s capacity to resist the virus, he said.
The researchers found that anti-CLEC5A monoclonal antibodies could inhibit dengue virus-induced plasma leakage, as well as vital-organ hemorrhaging, and reduce mortality from dengue virus infection by about 50 percent in infected mice, the report said.
“Our research found that [anti-CLEC5A antibodies] can attenuate inflammation and maintain host immunity so as to clear the virus,” Hsieh said.
The tests on mice proved successful and the team will undertake clinical tests on human patients in future, the researchers said.
The research project is sponsored by the National Science Council.