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Laboratory's Role in Dengue Testing

Dengue fever is again on the rise in several countries in the Caribbean. As with most diseases and conditions, we need laboratory tests to confirm whether a patient has dengue or not. As usual, the laboratory, which is one of the most silent of health support systems, is a key avenue for providing the information required for managing patients and guarding the public’s health

Dengue is an illness caused by infection with any of the four types of Dengue virus (DEN 1, 2, 3 and 4), which are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and affects an estimated 50 million people in approximately 100 countries every year. Infection by one DEN serotype confers long-term immunity to that serotype but not to the others, so persons can be infected by different serotypes at different times in their lifetime. The issue is further complicated by the fact that the severity of the illness increases with infection with different serotypes.

The majority of dengue infections (~75%) are asymptomatic. Testing for dengue infection can be somewhat bewildering because within a week to 10 days, this acute illness progresses from infection with the virus to production of antibodies against the virus by our immune system. (Antibodies are the body’s protective defence -- produced by the body’s immune response when challenged by a foreign body or antigen -- in this case, the dengue virus.) The diagram in Figure 1 indicates what happens during the course of dengue infection -- from infection with virus to antibody production and then to recovery in most instances.

 

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CMLF News Issue #7
27th January 2016