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First link between dengue fever and vision problems found

Date posted: 12 September 2017

Researchers from Flinders University have made the first scientific link between dengue fever and vision problems, and hope their findings will lead to future treatments.

There are currently no effective drugs or vaccines to cure the disease, which now affects about 400 million people a year.

The South Australian, Adelaide based university has taken the first steps in investigating how dengue causes uveitis or inflammation of the eye, and how it breaks down the barriers of retinal pigment epithelial cells.

Ophthalmologist and distinguished Professor of Eye and Vision Health, Justine Smith, said the next step would be studying how different strains of the disease affect human eyes, and how this could be related to new treatments.

'People have known about dengue for years but it’s only recently that we’ve discovered the link to uveitis, and this is the first time we’ve looked at dengue this way,' she said. 'With most infectious diseases mortality rates are going down, but the concerning thing about dengue is that they are going up.'

'The particular concern is when the bug gets into the retina, but there hadn’t previously been any research done on this. We’re looking at the cells we think are involved in symptoms, and now we’re thinking where to from here.'

Professor Smith worked with Flinders virologist, Associate Professor Jillian Carr, and colleagues based at the Singapore Eye Centre on the study, which was recently published Mediators of Inflammation.

She hopes the research will have an impact on a national and international level, and acknowledged the work wouldn’t be possible without the strong support for organ donation.

'This is research that we’re very fortunate to be able to do in Australia, and we are indebted to all the families who give us these eye gifts,' she said. 'This work is on an international scale and without them we wouldn’t be able to do it.'

Dengue is common in south east Asia and is a concern for travellers. It can also be contracted in northern Queensland.

Source: Campus Review


Last updated: 12 September 2017
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