Dengue Fever is one of the most common mosquito-borne viral diseases in the world. Typically, Dengue fever develops 4 to 7 days after being bitten by a mosquito with patients suffering from fever, headaches, rashes, aches, and bleeds. In a severe form, Dengue hemorrhagic fever can result in death.

Dengue virus illustrated (Thomas Splettstoesser/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis)

Currently, testing for this disease is complex and time-consuming. Results from molecular tests like Polymerase Chain reaction, which detect Dengue DNA can be done only by verified testing labs and results take anywhere from 4 days to 2 weeks to reach doctors.However molecular testing cannot be used to monitor this illness. Instead, doctors have to resort to antibody testing to monitor current dengue fever infections and their trajectory

Antibodies are produced by the body in response to an infection. At the early stages of infection, antibody levels are low and spike up as the body is fighting the infection. Once the infectious organism has been cleared, antibody levels begin to decrease. The levels of antibody in a person are strongly influenced by the severity of infection and the body’s immune response. Antibody testing is currently the only way to test for a recent or current infection of Dengue and cannot be used in real time to monitor patient health.

Tracking Dengue in Real time using lessons from the past!

Commonly used to detect solid tumours, positron emission tomography (PET) paired with the glucose metabolism probe, fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), is considered ‘old’ technology in the field of cancer.

Now, A team from Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has now found a new use for this ‘old’ technology in another field: infectious diseases research.

Using FDG-PET as an imaging tool for dengue infection in mouse models, the team has potentially uncovered a novel and non-invasive way to track the infection in real-time and more accurately assess the effectiveness of new treatments for dengue.