The World’s First Dengue Vaccine Could Be Available in Southeast Asia Next Year

From the official website of the government of the Philippines.

From the official website of the government of the Philippines.

A dengue vaccine being tested in five Southeast Asian countries has yielded encouraging results, prompting governments and researchers in the region to announce that the world’s first dengue vaccine could be available next year.

The vaccine was tested on 10,275 children (2 to 14 years old) in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines with an overall efficacy of 56.5 percent. After three doses, the vaccine reportedly reduced the possibility of a child developing dengue hemorrhagic fever by 88.5 percent. There was also a 67 percent reduction in the risk of hospitalization due to dengue.

Dengue is a tropical virus carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito with no known cure. According to the World Health Organization, about 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk from dengue. Up to 100 million dengue infections are reported each year; about 75 percent of the cases are found in the Asia Pacific, especially in Southeast Asia.

Dengue outbreaks have risen in recent years in several Southeast Asian countries.

Many attributed this to the rapid urbanization in the region. Virologist Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit from Malaysia described dengue as an urban disease:

If you have a lot of people coming to stay in an urban area, then you have a population with a lot more people who are susceptible to infection. A lot of them can come down with dengue virus when they come into contact with it.

Last week, the governments of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand announced the successful vaccine testing that can prevent four strains of dengue and haemorrhagic fever, which is a symptom of the disease. Interestingly, the news is presented as if these individual countries are spearheading the research on the dengue vaccine.

It is drug company Sanofi Pasteur, in partnership with the five Southeast Asian countries, which has been conducting the study and testing of the Asian dengue vaccine in the past two decades. Their latest study is the basis of news reports announcing the final phase in testing the dengue vaccine. But the same study also mentioned the limitations of the vaccine. This was noted by writer Damian Garde:

Despite the vaccine's broad efficacy, however, a closer look at the data paints a more nuanced picture. Dengue comes in four serotypes, and while Sanofi's treatment did well against variants 1, 3 and 4, it charted just 34.7% efficacy in serotype 2, missing statistical significance in one of Asia's most common forms of the disease. Furthermore, the researchers note, the vaccine's efficacy increased with patient age, with the youngest patients deriving the least benefit.

The Asian Dengue Vaccine, if made available next year, will be a big boost in the global campaign to eradicate dengue by year 2020.

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