ICGEB-Emory Vaccine Center Scientists unmask body's immune cells that fight dengue


India has the highest numbers of dengue infections of any country. So far this year, over 51,730 cases of dengue cases have been reported in India, 2,333 in Delhi alone, but the actual estimated numbers might be ten times higher. Despite this emerging problem, there has been little work towards understanding the immune responses in Indians infected with the dengue virus.

Joint research by scientists in India and USA, published recently in the Journal of Virology defines CD8 T lymphocytes, a type of blood cell whose numbers increase massively following viral infection and are critical for its control.

This international collaborative study shows that in dengue a vast majority of these massively expanding CD8 T cells  do not make these cytokines, but are instead equipped with the ability to kill virus infected cells. This would help the body to fight infection. According to Anmol Chandele, the lead author of the study, this new knowledge will be critical for developing more efficacious dengue vaccines and could be a game changer in our fight against dengue.

Murali Krishna Kaja, the study’s senior author said that these groundbreaking studies also emphasize the value of international collaboration. Five years ago, considering the growing problem of infectious diseases in India to be an important area of reserach, two world leaders in vaccine research, the Emory Vaccine Center (Atlanta, USA) and the ICGEB, New Delhi, India established a joint center in New Delhi. The goal of this center is to increase India’s capacity for vaccine and infectious disease research using state of the art tools and technologies. This newly published study is a major breakthrough coming from this unique partnership.

The study is supported by the US Government’s National Institute of Health (NIH) award for international collaboration in infectious disease research (ICIDR), and the Indian Government’s Department of Biotechnology. The ICIDR program is an important initiative by the NIH (USA) to study infectious diseases of global public health significance.

This award to study dengue virus infection in India (Principal investigator, Rafi Ahmed, Emory Vaccine Center and Navin Khanna, ICGEB) is the first of the kind ICIDR funded project for India. Besides scientists from the Emory Vaccine Center (EVC) and ICGEB, scientists and physicians from Indian institutions such as All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, and the Mahidol University of Thailand have played a critical role in this study.

The ICGEB-Emory Vaccine Center is a unique partnership between ICGEB (New Delhi) and Emory Vaccine Center, Emory University (Atlanta, GA, USA).  The goal of this partnership is to facilitate international collaborations in vaccine research for tackling infectious diseases of public health importance in developing countries. Such international collaborations adds value by recognizing the unifying mechanisms of disease causation and emphasizing common approaches for its control.

Further Reading:

Nature India: Scientists unmask body's immune cells that fight dengue

Journal of Virology: Characterization of human CD8 T cell responses in dengue virus infected patients from India

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