One of the grimmest legacies of the war in the Pacific is still being fought 70 years on, but a victory over dengue – the intensely painful “breakbone fever” which the conflict helped spread around the world – may be in sight.
Paris-based drug firm Sanofi hopes for positive results in September from a key trial among 4,000 children in Thailand that would set it on course to market a shot in 2015 that would prevent an estimated 100 million cases of dengue infection each year.
Early tests of the trial have shown a balanced immune response against all four dengue types.
“Everything they’ve done so far looks very good,” said Duane Gubler of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.
He expects that Sanofi’s vaccine will show an efficacy rate of at least 75 – 80%.
Orin Levine of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said the new vaccine is a potential breakthrough, but warned that its roll-out may not be straightforward.
The vaccine needs to be given in three separate doses over the course of a year in order to counter the threat from the four different types of dengue virus.
Health-care experts would prefer a single-dose or, at most, a two-dose vaccine for mass immunization. A simpler regimen would also be better for militaries and travellers.
In any case, Sanofi is spending €350 million (US$438 million) on a new vaccine factory near Lyon, which is already in test production. If the trial data is good, Sanofi will file for market approval in countries where dengue is endemic like Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Mexico next year, suggesting a regulatory green light in 2014 and commercial launch in early 2015.
Dengue spread to global pandemic proportions during World War II, partly due to the massive movements of armies through the Pacific theatre. In the past 50 years, there has been a thirtyfold jump in cases.
The World Health Organization officially puts infections at 50 million to 100 million a year, though many experts think this assessment from the 1990s badly underestimates the disease.
Most patients survive but dengue is estimated to kill about 20,000 every year, many of whom are children.
Source: The Jakarta Post