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dengue virus structureDengue is caused by any one out of four dengue virus serotypes transmitted by mosquitoes. These serotypes infect up to 400 million people a year being the leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics. Dengue incidence is geographically expanding due to host migration, environmental changes and adaptability of mosquitoes. This makes dengue virus the most important mosquito-borne viral pathogen in the world. To date, there is no licensed vaccine yet available despite various vaccines currently under development in the world.

A huge challenge in vaccine development is to design effective vaccines against variable pathogens, such as dengue virus (DENV). Dengue disease, transmitted by mosquitoes, can be caused by any of four different DENV serotypes. Exposure and infection with one serotype confers immunity against that specific serotype but not to the other three remaining serotypes. Moreover, studies have shown patients that previously suffered from dengue are in high risk to develop a more aggressive form of the disease if they come into contact with a different DENV serotype; a process known as Antibody-Dependent Enhancement (ADE). Over the last two years, our laboratory has integrated a range of novel technologies to develop a DENV vaccine with the ability to address pathogen diversity.

To investigate whether our new immunogen is truly universal, we have established a consortium in Mexico to isolate and preserve samples from patients previously infected with dengue. These will be important to determine if immune cells recognise our immunogen regardless of the dengue serotype the HLA of the volunteers.