The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably been one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. As countries world over look towards a cure for the deadly virus, working hard for the development of an effective vaccine, researchers seem to have found a link between the spread of coronavirus and previous outbreaks of dengue fever. The study led by Duke Professor Miguel Nicolelis suggests exposure to the mosquito-transmitted illness may provide some level of immunity against COVID-19, reported Reuters UK. The research compared the geographic distribution of coronavirus cases with the spread of dengue in 2019 and 2020.
Nicolelis’ team found that places with lower coronavirus infection rates and slower case growth were locations that had suffered intense dengue outbreaks this year or last. “This striking finding raises the intriguing possibility of an immunological cross-reactivity between dengue’s Flavivirus serotypes and SARS-CoV-2,” the study said, referring to dengue virus antibodies and the novel coronavirus.
“If proven correct, this hypothesis could mean that dengue infection or immunization with an efficacious and safe dengue vaccine could produce some level of immunological protection” against the coronavirus, it added. Nicolelis stated that previous studies have shown that people with dengue antibodies in their blood can test falsely positive for COVID-19 antibodies even if they have never been infected by the coronavirus.
“This indicates that there is an immunological interaction between two viruses that nobody could have expected, because the two viruses are from completely different families,” Nicolelis said. He, however noted that more studies are needed to be conducted in order to determine the correlation between COVID-19 and dengue fever. Nicolelis mentioned his team came across the dengue discovery by accident, during a study focused on how COVID-19 had spread through Brazil, in which they found that highways played a major role in the distribution of cases across the country. “It was a shock. It was a total accident. In science, that happens, you’re shooting at one thing and you hit a target that you never imagined you would hit,” he said.