As efforts to create a strong and effective vaccine for the dreaded dengue virus continue to hit snags, a new study from researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology offers surprising evidence that suggests the need for a revamped approach to dengue vaccine design. The finding runs counter to current scientific understanding of the key cells that need to be induced to develop a successful dengue vaccine. La Jolla Institute scientist Alessandro Sette, Dr. Biol.Sci., and his team found that T cells, which are key disease-fighting cells of the immune system, play an important protective role in controlling dengue virus infection, rather than creating an aberrant response that can ultimately worsen the disease as is the prevailing belief in the scientific community. "The current thinking in the field is that the goal of a dengue vaccine should be the induction of antibodies and not T cells," says Dr. Sette, an internationally recognized vaccine biologist and director of the Institute's Center for Infectious Disease. "But our results suggest that both cell types are needed to produce a strong immune response against dengue infection." Scott B. Halstead, M.D., a leading authority on dengue virus and senior scientific advisor to the international Dengue Vaccine Initiative, says the findings provide new insights that should be considered in future dengue vaccine efforts. "Their study of T cell responses in a large group of HLA-defined Sri Lankan adults naturally infected by dengue viruses found that T cell immunity contributed to host protection rather than to vascular permeability (which occurs in severe cases)," says Dr. Halstead.
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