Researchers able to predict how severely dengue will affect patients

Most dengue patients have a mild but painful form of the mosquito-borne illness, but a fraction develop its more severe form, dengue haemorrhagic fever. Now, researchers from Singapore and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a molecular signature that could predict which form patients will get.

Their method works within 48 to 72 hours of a patient coming down with fever, compared to the current four to seven days, and could help reduce the number of patients hospitalised. Today, about a quarter of patients here are hospitalised. But just 0.5 to 1 per cent of all dengue patients here turn out to have the more severe form of dengue haemorrhagic fever.

New method must however be proven to work on the dengue-2 type of illness, and be validated on a new set of patients, before it can be used in clinical practice, said research team member Dr Lee Yie Hou of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.

The number of dengue infections is particularly high this year, with more than 4,000 cases in Singapore date. As Singapore heads into its warmer season, the number is expected to peak in about five weeks.