Dengue, a mosquito-borne virus with symptoms ranging from fever, rash, and headache to severe bleeding in dengue hemorrhagic fever, is on the rise worldwide, and children account for many of the cases. Understanding who is infected with dengue is critical to public health planning for the disease.
A recently published study in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases was designed to reveal infection rates for the entire urban pediatric population in Indonesia, a region with one of the highest burdens of dengue fever in the world. Researchers collected blood samples from 3,194 children aged 1 through 18 years who lived in 30 different urban neighborhoods, testing each sample for antibodies to dengue, an indication that someone has been infected with the virus in the past. Questionnaires were also administered to determine information about each child’s household demographics.
The researchers found that 69.4 percent of all children tested positive for dengue antibodies; 33.8 percent of 1-4 year olds, 65.4 percent of 5-9 year olds, 83.1 percent of 10-14 year olds, and 89.0 percent of 15-18 year olds tested positive. The median age to become infected with dengue for the first time was 4.8 years, and the researchers calculated that on average, 13.1 percent of children get their first dengue infection each year. In addition, the more people in a household who had been diagnosed with dengue since a child’s birth, the more likely the child was to test positive for dengue antibodies.
“The observation that 13.1 percent of children suffer a primary infection per year translates into many millions of infections a year. Adults are presumably infected with a similar frequency,” the researchers say. “While a modelling approach would be required to quantify this burden, these data are strongly suggestive that dengue infections result in a significant burden of symptomatic and severe disease in urban Indonesia.”
Reference: Prayitno A, Taurel A-F, Nealon J, Satari HI, Karyanti MR, Sekartini R, et al. (2017) Dengue seroprevalence and force of primary infection in a representative population of urban dwelling Indonesian children. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 11(6): e0005621. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0005621
Image Credit: James Gathany, Prof. Frank Hadley Collins, Dir., Cntr. for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, Univ. of Notre Dame