University of Vermont

University Communications

Kirkpatrick Receives Award to Examine Dengue Fever Vaccines

Release Date: 07-24-2009

Author: Jennifer Nachbur
Email: Jennifer.Nachbur@uvm.edu
Phone: 802/656-7875 Fax: 802-656-3961

Previously eradicated in the United States, dengue fever is currently among the most important re-emerging infectious diseases in the world. Between 50 and 100 million cases of the disease — marked by high fever and severe back and muscle pain — occur annually in tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world. Caused by four types of dengue virus and transmitted through the bite of specific species of mosquitoes, the disease has returned as both a domestic and global threat over the past few decades, putting an estimated 2.5 billion persons at risk of infection. Experts point to trends, such as global urbanization, increased air travel and even global warming as the potential underlying causes of dengue's reintroduction to such locations as Puerto Rico, Hawaii and along the U.S./Mexico border.

Beth Kirkpatrick, M.D., associate professor of medicine and an infectious disease specialist at the University of Vermont (UVM) and Fletcher Allen Health Care, is collaborating with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has designated the development of effective vaccines against dengue fever a priority. She recently received a $4.4 million, five-year grant from the NIH and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to examine new vaccines against the disease.

The new research will be led by Kirkpatrick, with support from infectious disease colleague Kristen Pierce, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, through the Vaccine Testing center at UVM. Clinical studies will be performed at the University's General Clinical Research Center.

Kirkpatrick, who joined UVM in 1999 and started the Vaccine Testing group in 2001, has studied several infectious disease vaccines over the past ten years, including campylobacter, anthrax and typhoid. "The mosquitoes which spread dengue viruses are now present in 28 U.S. States, not including Vermont," said Kirkpatrick, who notes that the infection cannot be spread from person to person.

For more information about the dengue fever vaccine study, call (802) 656-0013 or email vaccinetestingcenter@uvm.edu .