First-ever successful dengue fever pill may save millions of lives

An assistant holds a test tube with an Aedes aegypti mosquito at the CNEA (National Atomic Energy Commission), in Ezeiza, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina April 12, 2023.—Reuters 

Johnson & Johnson has reported promising results from a small human challenge trial of their pill for dengue fever.

Dengue is a growing disease threat with no specific treatments available currently. In this trial, ten volunteers were given a high dose of the J&J pill five days before being exposed to dengue. They continued taking the pill for 21 days after the exposure.

Six of these participants showed no detectable dengue virus in their blood and no signs of an immune response to the virus over 85 days of monitoring.

This antiviral pill is a significant development as there have been no specific treatments for dengue until now. Dengue fever is prevalent in Asia and Latin America, causing millions of infections and tens of thousands of deaths each year.

The trial results are encouraging, and the next step will be testing the pill as a treatment. The drug works by blocking the action of two viral proteins, preventing the virus from replicating itself.

Access to this new drug, if it proves effective on a larger scale, will be a crucial concern, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where dengue is prevalent. 

This is reminiscent of the challenges faced by the dengue vaccine endorsed by the World Health Organization earlier this month. Johnson & Johnson is working on addressing this issue, though it’s still in the early stages. 

Dengue is likely to spread further due to climate change, making it important to develop effective treatments.

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