Dengue fever is caused by the dengue virus, which is principally transmitted by the mosquito A. aegypti. It represents the most prevalent arthropod-borne viral illness in humans, where over 50% of the world’s population is at risk. In fact the global burden of symptomatic dengue is on the order of 100 million cases/year.
It has been noted that in primary dengue virus infection, which occurs mostly in the first year of life, that severe clinical symptoms are seen only in chubby infants. In a recent edition of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Libraty and colleagues report on a prospective observational study of infants in the first of life to ask the following question: does adipose tissue accumulation in infants associate with severe dengue fever?
The authors found that adipose tissue “contains two potential targets for dengue virus infection and production- adipocytes and adipose tissue macrophages.” During early infancy, total body adiposity and visceral adipose tissue stores peaked and this observation was characterized by a relative decrease in alternatively activated macrophages, and a relative increase in circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines in these children. They conclude that such inflammatory conditions in these children provide a conducive environment for the development of severe dengue fever upon viral transmission.
Libraty, D. et al. 2015. The Pattern of Adipose Tissue Accumulation during Early Infancy Provides an Environment for the Development of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. PLOS.