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Global research community mobilizes with high-level conference on Dengue fever

Umea University

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IMAGE: This is Raman Preet, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Unit of Epidemiology and Global Health, Umeå University in Sweden. view more

Credit: Mattias Pettersson

On 24-26 February, leading Dengue researchers will meet in Sri Lanka for a large research conference and a collaborative mobilisation effort to advance the fight against Dengue fever. At the centre of this effort is DengueTools, a global research consortium hosted and coordinated by Umeå University, and funded by the EU. DengueTools has greatly accumulated knowledge about the mosquito-carried viral disease and how it can be limited by controlling the mosquitos Aedes aegypti and A. albopictus.

"DengueTools is an international research consortium working on developing monitoring strategies, better and faster diagnosis and new methods to combat the spread of the virus," says Raman Preet, project coordinator for DengueTools. "This unprecedented research collaboration has increased the knowledge about monitoring and preventing Dengue in countries such as Sri Lanka and Thailand. But as a well-functioning model, it can also serve as a model for a quick collaborative response against the Zika virus. In fact, this work is already underway."

The 54 month-long project has been hosted and coordinated by the Umeå University's Centre for Global Health Research under the leadership of Professor Annelies Wilder-Smith. The consortium includes 14 partners from 11 countries in Europe, Asia and South America and was rewarded a EUR 5.7 million grant from the EU. The project was extended for six months and will wrap up with Stem the Tide, an international conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka. DengueTools is one of three current dengue consortia and the first one to conclude.

Much is still unknown about Dengue fever. Knowledge and data on the virus accumulated through the DengueTools consortium will be presented at the conference, along with presentations by international experts. The consortium has focused on three main research areas:

  • developing new practical and cost-effective tools and strategies for diagnosing and monitoring the virus in affected areas with limited health resources

  • developing new strategies for preventing Dengue infections in school children

  • assessing the risk that Dengue will spread to previously uninfected areas, such as Europe.

As an EU Project, DengueTools was launched in September of 2011, following sporadic incidents of reported viral infections in France and Croatia in 2010 and amidst fears that Dengue fever could spread an unprecedented global incidence of reported viral infections and the risk of Dengue fever could spread in Europe. The following year an outbreak in Madeira, Portugal, in which about 2,100 people were infected, confirmed some concerns. Dengue and Zika viruses are carried by the same mosquito type. Therefore, as Europe now responds to the global threat of the Zika virus, the understanding amassed through the DengueTools consortium and its model research infrastructure can immensely contribute in prevention efforts against Zika.

More information about the Dengue: Stem the Tide conference, including the programme, can be found at: http://www.conference.epid.gov.lk

More information about DengueTools can be found at: http://www.denguetools.net

Facts about Dengue fever:

  • Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease, estimated to infect about 50-100 million people worldwide every year, of which 25,000 are fatal.

  • Dengue fever is a big burden on health care in affected countries.

  • Since the mosquitos carrying the virus are active during the day, and children generally do not have immunity, school children are the most exposed group.

  • Around 100 countries are considered endemic, though Southeast Asia and South America are hit disproportionately.

  • About 2.5 billion people are at risk of being infected, mainly in the tropics and sub-tropics.

  • Climate change and travel patterns have contributed to the introduction of Dengue fever even in southern Europe.

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