- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The study, published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS), Neglected Tropical Diseases, contradicts the long-held assumption that once you're infected with a particular dengue serotype, you won't get it again.
“Our most significant result from this study is that immunity to dengue viruses does not always provide perfect protection from reinfection,” said principal investigator and medical entomologist Thomas Scott, distinguished professor and now emeritus, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “The public health implications include evaluation of dengue vaccines, interpretation of a person's virus exposure history and susceptibility to new infections, and design of dengue surveillance programs.”
Dengue infects 400 million people worldwide each year, and 4 billion people or nearly half of the world's population are at risk for dengue,” said Scott, who has studied dengue more than 25 years and is recognized as a leading expert in the ecology and epidemiology of the disease. “There is no vaccine nor drug that is effective against this virus.”
“This finding could help explain results of dengue vaccine trials that showed poor efficacy against one of the four serotype,” Stoddard said. “It also has broad implications for vaccine development.”
The research team investigated the "validity of the fundamental assumption" by analyzing a large epidemic caused by a new strain of DENV-2 that invaded Iquitos, Peru, in 2010-2011, 15 years after the first outbreak of DENV-2 in the region.
"Our data indicates that protection from homologous DENV re-infection may be incomplete in some circumstances, which provides context for the limited vaccine efficacy against DENV-2 in recent trials," the research team wrote. "Further studies are warranted to confirm this phenomenon and to evaluate the potential role of incomplete homologous protection in DENV transmission dynamics."
Scott and Amy Morrison of the Scott lab and U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit, co-directed the project in Iquitos. The paper is also the work of Sandra Olkowski and Kanya Long of the Scott lab; Robert Reiner of Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Mich., and the Fogarty International Center; Brett Forshey, Angelica Espinoza, Stalin Vilcarromero, Tadeusz J. Kochel and Eric Halsey of the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit; Helen Wearing, University of New Mexico, Alburquerque; and Wilma Casanova, Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana, Iquitos, Perú.
While vaccines are under development, it is not clear how they can be best applied when they are available, including in combination with other interventions like mosquito control, Scott said. “New disease prevention tools, in addition to vaccines, and an improved understanding of virus transmission dynamics, which will enhance surveillance and epidemic response, are needed to reduce the global burden of dengue.”
The paper, “Incomplete Protection against Dengue Virus Type 2 Re-infection in Peru,”
is online at