A new strategy has been developed by scientists that can minimise the ability of the dengue virus to get way through the host immune system. This might make way for a potential universal vaccine for the lethal virus.

When almost 50 per cent of the world’s population is at risk of dengue infection and around 400 million people are getting caught in its shackles each year, there is a desperate need for safe and long-lasting vaccine said the researchers.

The current strategy produced in this study by ASTAR’s Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) claims to overcome the ongoing challenges of vaccine development by handling the ability of the virus to disappear from the host immune system.

An enzyme called MTase (also known as 2′-O-methyltransferase) is required by dengue virus so as to chemically check its genetic material to skip detection.

The study led to the discovery of the fact that by bringing in a genetic mutation to desensitize the MTase enzyme of the virus, initial cells infected by the weakened MTase mutant virus is quickly recognised as foreign element.

So this way the desired outcome of a strong protective immune response is raised at that very time, the mutant virus barely gets a chance to spread in the host.

This shows that the mutated virus is now not able to replicate in the mosquito, hence it will not be able to spread through mosquitoes into the environment.

“There is still no clinically approved vaccine or specific treatment available for dengue, so we are very encouraged by the positive results with this novel vaccine strategy. Our next step will be to work on a vaccine formulation that will confer full protection from all four serotypes with a single injection. If this proves to be safe in humans, it can be a major breakthrough for the dengue vaccine field,” team leader, said Dr Katja Fink, who conducted the study in collaboration with Singapore’s Novartis Institute of Tropical Diseases (NITD) and Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology.

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