Dengue’s Spread In Asia Linked To Air Travel

Examining data from Asia over 59 years beginning in 1956, scientists in China show that air traffic is associated with the spread of the dengue virus across Asia.

AsianScientist (Aug. 5, 2017) – Scientists in China, working with international collaborators, have found a strong association between air travel and the spread of dengue across Asia. Their findings have been published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The dengue virus causes dengue fever in an estimated 390 million people around the globe each year. The symptoms of dengue infection range from a mild fever and headache to severe low blood pressure. The virus has mostly caused disease in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, but a 2014 outbreak in Japan broke that pattern. Overall, the geographic area affected by dengue has been growing in recent years.

In this study, Dr. Tian Huaiyu and Dr. Xu Bing, both of Beijing Normal University, China, together with colleagues from the University of Oxford, analyzed the spread of dengue viruses in Asia from 1956 to 2015. They used 2,202 genetic sequences of dengue viruses, collected in 20 countries or regions of Asia over the 59 years, to determine how different strains were related. They also investigated trends in air travel, maritime mobility, migration, and socio-economics to determine what factors impact the spread of dengue.

The spread of three different dengue virus serotypes, DENV-1, -2, and -3, is associated with air traffic more than any other factors, the data revealed. The researchers found that air traffic hubs such as Thailand and India helped seed dengue epidemics, while China, Cambodia, Indonesia and Singapore helped diffuse the virus to other Asian countries.

“Future trends in global mobility could potentially accelerate the appearance and diffusion of the dengue virus worldwide,” the researchers said. “Prevention and control of dengue epidemics requires a better understanding of its mode of geographic dissemination, especially for countries in the tropics.”

The article can be found at: Tian et al. (2017) Increasing Airline Travel may Facilitate Co-circulation of Multiple Dengue Virus Serotypes in Asia.


Source: PLOS; Photo: Shutterstock.
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