HealthDay News — Prior exposure to the dengue fever virus may increase the severity of Zika virus infection, according to a study published online June 23 in Nature Immunology.
“We can’t say yet whether this interaction is playing a role in the current outbreak, but if confirmed it’s likely to have important implications for the control and global spread of Zika, and for the development of any vaccine for the virus,” Jeremy Farrar, MD, director of the Wellcome Trust, which funded the study, said in a news release from Imperial College London. Early stage laboratory findings suggest this connection between the 2 viruses may help explain the current Zika outbreak in Latin American and Caribbean countries, according to the international team of researchers.
In another study, the same research team found that an antibody that’s effective against dengue may also counter Zika. The researchers believe this finding that could aid efforts to develop a vaccine against Zika. This study was published online June 23 in Nature.
Zika and dengue “share many similarities in their genetic makeup, transmission pattern, and in the immune response they trigger,” Farrar said. “These new studies suggest that prior infection with dengue doesn’t offer any protection against Zika, and may in fact predispose people to a more severe infection.”