Melbourne, Sep 10: Existing drugs used for bacterial infections could be repurposed to create the first drug treatment for the deadly dengue fever, a new study has found. Clinical trials for the dengue fever treatment could start within a year, said researchers who have identified similarities in how the body reacted to dengue virus and bacterial infections. “We have discovered that the dengue virus NS1 protein acts as a toxin in the body, in a similar manner to the way bacterial cell wall products lead to septic shock in bacterial infections,” said Paul Young from University of Queensland’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences. “For the past 20 to 30 years, researchers and pharmaceutical companies have been developing drug candidates to inhibit the body’s damaging responses to these bacterial infections,” Young said. “So drugs are already available that have gone through phase three clinical trials,” he said. (Also Read: Suven Life Sciences gets patents for neurodegenerative drug)
Young said mosquito-borne dengue virus was an increasing problem in tropical and sub-tropical areas, with more than 2.5 billion people in more than 100 countries at risk of infection.
Dengue virus is estimated to infect up to 400 million people globally each year, researchers said. “Given increased international travel and the prospect of climate change extending the range of the dengue mosquito, more people will be at risk,” Young said. Dengue typically causes a debilitating fever but can progress to potentially fatal dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome. Up to 500,000 cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever are diagnosed each year, with as many as 25,000 deaths, said researchers. “Despite this significant global health burden, no vaccine or drug has yet been licensed,” Young said. “There were more than 200,000 cases and many deaths,” said PhD student Naphak Modhiran. “I hope our discoveries in the lab will translate to the patient bedside and eventually help those who suffer from dengue infection around the world,” Modhiran said. The research group’s findings and the availability of drugs already developed for bacterial infections mean that clinical testing could begin in as little as one to two years. The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.