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Upstate to host conference on combating mosquito-borne illness

Upstate Medical University's Institute for Global Health and Translational Sciences will host a summit in August dealing with dengue, a serious mosquito-borne illness.

“The dengue endgame: imagining a world with dengue control,” will be held August 9 and 10 and will include infectious disease experts from around the world discussing the current state of dengue internationally, what dengue control might look like and to discuss and identify potential routes toward that control.

According to the CDC, dengue outbreaks are occurring in many countries of the world in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Almost half of the world’s population, about 4 billion people, live in areas with a risk of dengue. The disease is common in many popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico), Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In the United States, local cases and limited spread of dengue does occur periodically in some states with hot, humid climates and Aedes mosquitoes.

Upstate’s Global Health and Translational Sciences department has long been involved with researching dengue and working toward solutions. For several years, the center studied outbreaks in Ecuador and most recently, in 2022, Upstate researchers in collaboration with the U.S. Army advanced the development of an experimental Dengue Human Infection Model (DHIM) that is expected to be used widely by drug makers to advance the development of safe and effective vaccines against the dengue viruses. 

Details of a study performed at Upstate describing how dengue virus infects humans and drives immune responses are contained in a paper published in the high-impact journal Science Translational Medicine.

Adam T. Waickman, PhD, laboratory director and translational science coordinator for the institute, said that the summit will include representatives from the CDC, NIH, U.S. Army, academia (including Stanford, Duke and Notre Dame universities), pharmaceutical companies (Merck, J&J, and Takeda), and scientists/clinicians from dengue endemic areas around the world including Thailand, Singapore and Brazil.

“Dengue is a disease that’s near-and-dear to our team and there are a lot of new and exciting drugs, vaccines, and other tools being developed and deployed,” Waickman said. “However, they’re being deployed into the face of extreme headwinds including increased range of the mosquito that transmits the disease, increased travel, and increased urbanization.”

The summit will look at the historical challenges associated with dengue control and how those lessons can inform future efforts as well as how dengue control may be achieved.

The severity of dengue can range anywhere from mild flu-like symptoms to life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever. Reports show that between 5,000 and 40,000 people die from dengue virus infections annually, with most of those sickened being children. There are no dengue antiviral therapies currently available, and the only currently available dengue vaccine in the United States is only recommended for use in individuals previously infected with dengue and living in areas where dengue is common.

“Our hope with this gathering is to highlight and discuss both the challenges and opportunities for dengue control in the near future, and how the many pieces in play may fit together,” Waickman said.

The summit will be held in the KG Tan Auditorium in the National Veterans Resource Center, 101 Waverly Ave., Syracuse. For more information, visit the conference website at suny-dengue.org.

Registration is available here: https://www.upstatefoundation.org/Dengue


Caption: Dengue is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.