Belgians fight dengue fever


Thousands of people die from dengue fever every year. After twelve years of intensive research, the KU Leuven Rega Institute, the Centre for Drug Design and Discovery (CD3) and the pharmaceutical company Janssen Pharmaceutica have developed a powerful inhibitor against the virus.

Dengue, or dengue fever, affects around 400 million people each year, some 100 million of whom become ill and thousands of whom do not survive. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and is particularly prevalent in the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and Latin America. The main symptoms are intense muscle and joint pain and a high fever.


Until now, the only available vaccine has not been a panacea, and only analgesics have been able to offer relied to patients. But there is new hope thanks to new Belgian medical research.

Based on the observation that the virus tries to replicate itself by copying its own genetic material, scientists in the laboratory have succeeded in blocking the interaction between two viral proteins that are essential for this purpose. To do this, CD3's 'molecule library' of 400,000 references was screened to identify the correct molecules. The inhibitor acts both preventively and curatively against all four types of dengue, even when the most acute symptoms of the disease are present. In mice, the viral load fell within 24 hours of starting treatment.


The drug is currently in clinical development. The outlook is good for the millions of people, travellers, NGO workers and others who live in or visit high-risk areas.