Dr. Dan here; this month of June I am leaving my desk and going out in the field to work as a volunteer physician on several different islands. First, I will be travelling to the Republic of Vanuatu, located in the South Pacific. Luckily for me the last recorded case of cannibalism in Vanuatu occurred in 1969, so that should not be a problem! Unfortunately, mosquito borne diseases are still an endemic. Malaria is present on all the islands of Vanuatu, but fortunately for visitors there are medications for prevention and treatment.
Another mosquito borne disease is dengue which causes as many as 400 million infections per year worldwide. A “bone-crushingly” painful flu-like disease, dengue can be fatal in severe forms, especially among children. At present there is no approved vaccine in the United States. Thankfully just last year the first dengue fever vaccine got the green light in 3 countries: Mexico, the Philippines and Brazil.
More than 1.4 million cases of dengue were reported in Brazil alone in 2015. Sanofi saw the need and developed a vaccine with the help of the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research. We enrolled multiple patients in this vaccine study here in Jacksonville. Many of you may remember taking part in this clinical trial.
Sanofi’s vaccine is designed to coax the body’s immune system into making antibodies against all four forms of dengue. It is a live virus comprised of an attenuated yellow fever virus (yellow fever and dengue viruses have the same genus). For the vaccine, however, the virus is genetically engineered to include genes encoding for dengue proteins. Other dengue vaccines are also in development but none have received approval.
It is not a perfect vaccine; in clinical trials it only reduced the chances of developing the disease by about 60 percent. From the U.S. perspective it remains unclear how a vaccine would be used domestically, whether it would be used in areas that have already seen dengue including Hawaii or Florida or perhaps among those traveling to dengue endemic countries. The Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the application for the approval of the vaccine in the United States. Until the vaccine is available I will need to wear a lot of DEET and long sleeves on my travels.
I am proud of the work done here at JCCR and I want you to know that when you volunteer for these vaccine studies, your contributions have worldwide effects. Hopefully you will consider being a part of our next vaccine study to help combat the deadly disease of meningitis. Contact our Jacksonville, St. Johns, or Westside office to learn more about the meningitis vaccine trial.