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The relationship of interacting immunological components in dengue pathogenesis

David G Nielsen

Author Affiliations

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Tulane University, (1430 Tulane Avenue) SL-38 (New Orleans) Louisiana (70112-2699) USA

Virology Journal 2009, 6:211  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-6-211

Published: 27 November 2009


The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are over 50 million cases of dengue fever reported annually and approximately 2.5 billion people are at risk. Mild dengue fever presents with headache, fever, rash, myalgia, osteogenic pain, and lethargy. Severe disease can manifest as dengue shock syndrome (DSS) or dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF). Symptoms of DSS/DHF are leukopenia, low blood volume and pressure encephalitis, cold and sweaty skin, gastrointestinal bleeding, and spontaneous bleeding from gums and nose. Currently, there are no therapeutics available beyond supportive care and untreated complicated dengue fever can have a 50% mortality rate. According to WHO DSS/DHF is the leading cause of childhood mortality in some Asian countries. Dendritic cells are professional antigen presenting cells that are primary targets in a dengue infection. Dengue binds to Dendritic Cell-Specific Intercellular adhesion molecule-3-Grabbing Non-integrin (DC-SIGN). DC-SIGN has a high affinity for ICAM3 which is expressed in activating T-cells. Previous studies have demonstrated an altered T-cell phenotype expressed in dengue infected patients that could be potentially mediated by dengue-infected DCs.

Dengue is enhanced by three interacting components of the immune system. Dengue begins by infecting dendritic cells which in immature dendritic cells is mediated by DC-SIGN. In mature dendritic cells, antibodies can enhance dengue infection via Fc receptors. Downstream of dendritic cells T-cells become activated and generate the very cytokines implicated in vascular leak and shock in addition to activating effector cells. Both the virus and the antibodies are involved in release of complement and anaphylatoxins which can cause or exacerbate DHF/DSS. These systems are inextricable and strongly associated with dengue pathogenesis.