- by Alison Booth

Dengue research in Europe: Are we doing enough?

Dengue is becoming a real threat for Europe. Scientists believe dengue vectors Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus could soon spread as far north as Stockholm and Berlin respectively if we don’t curb greenhouse gas levels. In 2018, we saw the threat of dengue in Europe come to life with cases reported in Spain and France, and the vector Aedes albopictus reaching Eindhoven. With dengue already on its way to Europe, scientists from Sweden feared that dengue could become a regular problem for the continent. Are policymakers taking the threat seriously?

 

To understand how Europe is grappling with this growing challenge, let’s take a look at some of the ongoing dengue-related research projects the European Commission is backing under its Horizon 2020 programme:

 

  • BluSense Diagnostics is developing a simple test for diagnosing dengue fever. The nanotechnology-based point-of-care blood testing tool can determine whether a patient has dengue in just a few minutes and with a single drop of blood. The project, which runs until the end of July 2020, aims to enable BluSense to move their tool from a low-volume product to a full diagnostic dengue platform that can be produced on a high-throughput automated line.

 

  • NOVIRUSES2BRAIN is developing a ‘one size fits all’ drug to simultaneously eradicate multiple viruses from the central nervous system of individuals infected with a combination of Zika, dengue and chikungunya along with HIV and measles. The project, which began in the summer of 2019 and will run for four years, aims to identify candidates for the drug.

 

  • The FIghtiNg DEngue viRus project hopes to disrupt the interactions between two enzymes that the virus needs to replicate. The project, which runs until the end of April 2020, could lead to the development of effective anti-dengue drugs.

 

  • PiQiMosqBite is exploring how mosquito-borne pathogens, such as dengue, are transmitted during blood feeding. The project, which began in October and will run for two years, will use quantitative imaging, computer vision and an engineered human skin to study blood-feeding behaviour in detail. It will compare the behaviours leading up to blood feeding and the dynamics of biting between infected and healthy mosquitoes.

 

  • INFRAVEC2 aims to prepare Europe for vector-borne diseases. The four-year project, which concludes early in 2021, is building a durable European infrastructure able to predict and prevent the inevitable next epidemic outbreak.

 

  • MetAeAvIm hopes to gain a better understanding of mosquito immunity to dengue by investigating the gene expression profile of mosquitoes that are immune to the virus. The two-year project, which will conclude in 2021, is studying how immune mechanisms and metabolic pathways interact to control viruses at different stages of infection.

 

  • SuperCol aims to train scientists to develop super-selective biosensors for dengue and cholera along with particles that will allow biomolecules to be captured and released on demand. The project will begin in January 2020 and run for four years.

 

  • VECTRACK is combining cost-efficient sampling strategies, remote sensing and spatial modelling techniques to build risk maps for targeted surveillance and risk assessment. Running until October 2022, its earth observation satellite service promises to be the first transnational and automated vector surveillance system for preventive control of insect disease vectors.

 

  • DRmov is looking to decipher the replication dynamics of viruses such as dengue. By identifying host factors that play essential roles in infection, the project, which will run for two years from next January, hopes to identify new targets for antivirals.

 

Climate change and globalisation are increasing the spread and impact of dengue around the globe. Diseases that have historically been a problem of tropical regions now represent a threat for temperate regions of the world, including Europe. We’re already seeing the dengue vector moving further into Europe. Added to that, recent research findings suggest international travellers incur important direct and indirect costs because of dengue-related illness.

 

Are you in Europe? Have you experienced dengue-related illness or has the Aedes dengue vector reached your region? We’d be really interested to hear your story.