Scientist says dengue could be entrenched in South Florida

PSL lab working on vaccine


The Martin County Health Department has wrapped up its door to door education effort to fight dengue fever.

And while no new cases were reported Monday, the 20 cases reported so far are getting a lot of scrutiny from local scientists.


Stored in a tank of liquid nitrogen at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute in Port St. Lucie are frozen blood samples. These samples were taken from local residents who contracted dengue fever.


"We're interested in learning why some people are more susceptible to dengue fever than others," said Dr. Ted Ross with VGTI.


Dr. Ross and his team of scientists is collaborating with the Martin County Health Department, as they work on a vaccine.


 "So far the success rate has been a little low.  There was a large trial done in South America just this past year," said Dr. Ross.


Dr. Ross believes this year's dengue outbreak may be settling down, but it could be just the beginning of a "new normal".


"It looks like mosquitos are able to survive the winters here in Florida, they are mild. Now, it looks like we're going to have dengue entrenched in Florida," Dr. Ross added.


Scientists grow the dengue virus in the lab so they can use the potential vaccine formulas they've already created.


Dr. Ross says even the most effective vaccines can take a decade to go from the lab to the marketplace. So for now, he says use common sense. Use insect repellent and clear away all your standing water.


As to this most recent outbreak, Dr. Ross doesn't think we'll see a lot more cases but what will be key is to see what happens next spring and summer.


His team is working to come up with a universal vaccine that would be good on all the different variants of dengue out there now.


Scientists will look at the genetic makeup from those local blood samples to try and understand how people reacted to the virus infection. That will give them clues as to how to develop their vaccine to get the most effective immune response.

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