Published On: Thu, Oct 10th, 2013

Baylor researchers discover dengue virus in Houston: Study

A retrospective study analyzing blood samples in Houston, Texas reveals that the virus that causes dengue fever was locally acquired, according to researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM).


Photo/CDC-James Gathany

The study, Identification of Dengue Fever Cases in Houston, Texas, with Evidence of Autochthonous Transmission Between 2003 and 2005, was published in the journal, Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases on Oct. 9.

During this three year study, the research team led by Dr. Kristy Murray, associate professor and associate vice chair of research in the department of pediatrics at BCM and director of the Laboratory of Viral and Zoonotic Diseases at Texas Children’s Hospital, analyzed blood and cerebrospinal fluid samples submitted for West Nile virus testing in the Houston area during 2003-2005.

What they found was 47 of the samples were positive for dengue virus.

“We looked at clinical specimens that were banked at the city laboratory to see if there were potentially any other viruses that we could detect that weren’t known to be circulating in Houston but have the high potential to do so,” said Dr. Murray.

“We started with dengue virus since it was highest on the list of possible transmission here in Houston because we have the right kind of mosquitoes and a very large, densely populated city full of frequent travel to endemic areas, including Mexico and Central and South America.”

Murray and colleagues first checked the clinical samples for immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies, the antibodies that represent acute dengue infection, and found that 47 of the 3,768 samples were positive for IgM antibodies specific to the dengue virus. Two of those samples were positive for the actual virus in their blood, which happened to be dengue 2. This particular strain of dengue virus can be associated with severe illness, including hemorrhagic fever.

The other key finding was most of the cases had no history of travel to a dengue endemic area based on medical record review and interviews with patients. In fact, a medical record review identified two fatal cases, one of whom had been bed-bound for two years, so clearly had no history of travel outside of Houston.

Murray says most of the cases occurred in the summer months of 2003 and suggests there may have been a dengue outbreak at that time.

“Dengue virus is one of those diseases for which we suspected some low level of ongoing virus activity, and certainly Houston is a prime spot for these types of viruses to circulate,” said Murray.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

Displaying 4 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Gary Coleman's Forearm says:

    I bought a bat-house online and I’m going to put it up one of these days. Although I guess it’s choosing between rabies, dengue, West Nile, and St Louis encephalitis is pretty freakin’ tough.

    Rabies is basically 100% fatal (there have been a few reported survivors) but if you get bit, you get the immune globulin shots prophylactically and there’s no issue. I’ve treated WNV and it can be baaaaad but is often subclinical. SLE is the same.

    I have friends who work in Kuala Lumpur who have gotten dengue and it sucks royally. I’ve always known it was down in the Valley but I guess it has made it up this far

  2. cooped says:

    Like I needed another reason to hate mosquitoes.

  3. There was ‘most definitely’ a dengue fever outbreak in Houston in 2003: Baylor researcher - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] was reported last week, there was a fascinating retrospective study published in the journal, Vector-Borne and Zoonotic […]

  4. New radio show, ‘Outbreak News This Week’ to premiere Saturday on the Tan Talk Network - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] Dr. Kristy Murray, Associate professor and associate vice chair of research in the department of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Laboratory of Viral and Zoonotic Diseases at Texas Children’s Hospital to talk about the retrospective study on dengue fever in Houston. […]

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