New study findings from York University and Xi’an Jiaotong University researchers suggest that vaccinating against dengue fever may increase Zika outbreaks. The full study is published in Scientific Reports

Currently, over one-third of the globe’s population lives in areas with endemic dengue and reported cases of co-infection with Zika virus. Researchers sought to understand how vaccinating for one disease would impact the incidence of the other, as both dengue and Zika belong to the Flaviviridae family and are transmitted through a common host mosquito. Vaccination against one virus “could in fact make it easier for the other to spread,” stated study author and professor Jianhong Wu.  

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According to recent literature, dengue virus antibodies may boost Zika virus infection. Professor Wu and coauthors developed a new math model to study the effect of dengue vaccination on Zika outbreaks. 

Evidence from the model showed dengue vaccinations increased the number of people who acquired Zika. The number of dengue vaccinations within a population were positively correlated with an earlier onset and larger size of the outbreak. The most effective way to decrease the effect of dengue vaccinations includes an integrated strategy that involves mosquito control, Wu explained.

The findings from this study do not take away from the development of dengue vaccine products but rather call for more research in optimizing dengue vaccination programs and reducing the risk of Zika outbreaks.

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