Hooray Science! A New Vaccine Could End Dengue Fever

Dengvaxia is a drug to watch for.

The world’s first vaccine for dengue fever, called Dengvaxia, has just been approved in Mexico after a long 20 years of research. Further approvals are expected within Latin America and Asia in the future. The approval could mark a new era in handling an illness that affects many in tropical locations worldwide.

While dengue fever is often an ailment associated with the developing world, it has shown up in Florida, Hawaii, and some European countries in the past few years. Though rarely fatal, dengue fever causes fevers, headaches, and eye pain, among other symptoms. Hawaii is currently in the midst of an outbreak that has infected over 130 people, reminiscent of a similar outbreak in 2001.

Dengvaxia was created by French-based company Sanofi, which made the decision not to focus on getting the product approved in the U.S. or Europe. Both governments are known to have intense regulations and standards for new pharmaceuticals. Instead, the company will be taking the product directly to the countries that are most impacted by dengue fever and marketing it there. The decision is considered unique among pharmaceutical launches.

Dengvaxia will likely be marketed to middle-class consumers, giving it potential to be a larger moneymaker than other landmark vaccines, such as those in development for ebola and malaria. However, Sanofi has announced that the product will be priced in a “sustainable way” for its consumers, which will be critical to ensuring that Dengvaxia reaches those who need it.

The initial phase of treatment with Dengvaxia is expected to be administered to at least 40,000 people in Mexico. However, the pharmaceutical is only going to be given to those between the ages of 9 and 49, so people outside of that range may have to wait.

It’s been a year of great progress in the pharmaceutical world, and Dengvaxia might lead the way.


Stefani is a writer and urban planner based in Oakland, CA. She holds a master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s in Human Biology from Stanford University. In her free time she is often found reading diverse literature, writing stories, or enjoying the outdoors.  Follow her on Twitter:@stefanicox

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Space toilets: How astronauts boldly go where few have gone before

A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.

  • When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
  • Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
  • Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
Keep reading Show less

Carl Sagan on why he liked smoking marijuana

Carl Sagan liked to smoke weed. His essay on why is fascinating.

Photo: Photo by Robert Nelson on Unsplash / Big Think
Mind & Brain
  • Carl Sagan was a life long marijuana user and closeted advocate of legalization.
  • He once wrote an anonymous essay on the effects it had on his life and why he felt it should be legalized.
  • His insights will be vital as many societies begin to legalize marijuana.
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less