A promising new life-saving vaccine to fight against a known killer cleared an important hurdle, with drugmaker Sanofi announcing today that its vaccine to prevent dengue virus proved effective in a clinical trial in more than 4000 children in Thailand.
Dengue is a disease that most Americans have never heard of and will likely never face, but it is a debilitating and sometimes deadly disease that threatens billions of people. Dengue is spread by mosquito and most prevalent Asia and Latin America –in warm and tropical climates that have active mosquito populations. Of the estimated 230 million people infected annually, two million–mostly children–develop dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), a severe form of the disease. The disease results is severe fever, debilitating and extreme bone and joint pain, and can result in death.
Since the disease is also prevalent in many developing nations, many patients are not fortunate enough to be hospitalized. Those that are hospitalized can expect long a long recovery – often several weeks to more than a month. There are currently no treatments or preventatives for the disease. Although not common in the US, cases have been reported in the US in states with warm climates – such as Florida and Hawaii. These states are also traveller gateways to other parts of the world where dengue is more prevalent, and this too has contributed its spread into the US.
Sanofi is testing the vaccine in a larger 31,000 participant study currently underway in 10 countries of Asia and Latin America.
The vaccine could be a blockbuster for Sanofi which has a several year lead over competitors. While the disease has the greatest impact in third world countries, dengue is such a public health problem that governments and international global health programs would likely be quick to adopt. The vaccine is on track to reach the market in the late-2014 to 2016 timeframe.