Exposure to Dengue May Be Linked to COVID-19 Immunity: Study

2 min read
Exposure to Dengue May Be Linked to COVID-19 Immunity: Study

A new study has suggested that previous exposure to dengue may provide a certain level of immunity against COVID-19.

According to a Reuters report, the study was conducted by Miguel Nicolelis, a professor at Duke University, who examined the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil. During his research, he noted a link between the spread of the virus in the country with the past outbreaks of dengue fever in the region.

Nicolelis discovered that regions with lower infection rates and slower case growth for COVID-19 were the same locations that had seen major dengue outbreaks in the past couple of years.

COVID-19 took much longer to reach a higher level of community transmission in states with a higher recent incidence of dengue, such as Paraná, Santa Catarina, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul, and Minas Gerais, as compared to states like Amapá, Maranhão and Pará that had fewer recent dengue cases.


A similar relationship between dengue outbreaks and a slower spread of COVID-19 was observed in various parts of Latin America, Asia and other islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

“This striking finding raises the intriguing possibility of an immunological cross-reactivity between dengue’s Flavivirus serotypes and SARS-CoV-2.”
The Study

“If proven correct, this hypothesis could mean that dengue infection or immunization with an efficacious and safe dengue vaccine could produce some level of immunological protection” against the coronavirus, it added.

The research notes a significant correlation between lower incidence, mortality and growth rate of COVID-19 and dengue antibodies for certain populations in Brazil, where the level of dengue antibodies was higher.

Nicolelis told Reuters that the findings of the study are especially of striking because previous studies have indicated that people with dengue antibodies in their blood can test falsely positive for COVID-19 antibodies, even if they have never contracted the viral infection.

“This indicates that there is an immunological interaction between two viruses that nobody could have expected, because the two viruses are from completely different families.”
Miguel Nicolelis, Lead Author of the Study

Nicolelis said that the team of researchers came across the discovery by accident. The study had initially been focusing on the COVID-19 outbreak in Brazil, when they noticed that highways played a major role in the distribution of cases across the country.

The team went to certain case-free locations in the country to find a possible explanation. A breakthrough came when the team compared the spread of dengue with that of the coronavirus.

“It was a shock. It was a total accident. In science, that happens, you’re shooting at one thing and you hit a target that you never imagined you would hit.”
Miguel Nicolelis, Lead Author of the Study

The study will be published on the MedRxiv preprint server and will subsequently be submitted to a scientific journal after being peer reviewed.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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