In a significant stride in the battle against dengue fever, Johnson & Johnson has done an experimental pill that has shown great promising results in a small human challenge trial.
This groundbreaking pill, the first to exhibit antiviral activity against dengue, has effectively guarded several patients against a strain of the virus, as reported. Dengue fever, which often presents with no symptoms but is well known for causing severe joint pain and cramps, afflicts millions of people annually, particularly in regions like Asia and Latin America. Given the current absence of specific treatments, this development marks a significant step forward in the fight against the disease.
The trial, carried out in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, involved 10 volunteers who received a dose of the pill five days before being deliberately exposed to a variant of the dengue virus. They continued taking the pill for 21 days following this exposure.
Remarkably, six out of the ten participants displayed no detectable dengue virus in their bloodstream post-exposure, and there were no signs of an immune response to the infection during the 85-day monitoring period.
This drug operates by blocking the action of two viral proteins, effectively preventing the virus from replicating. Johnson & Johnson reported that all participants in the trial tolerated the drug well.
These promising initial findings lend support to the ongoing Phase II trials of the pill, which are aimed at preventing the four different dengue types in real-world settings where the disease is common. The next step in the development process will be testing it as a treatment.
Nevertheless, a crucial challenge lies ahead: ensuring access to the new drug, should it prove effective on a larger scale, especially in low- and middle-income countries where the need is most acute. This challenge echoes the one faced by the World Health Organization-backed dengue vaccine earlier this month.
Marnix Van Loock, responsible for emerging pathogens research at J&J’s Janssen division, acknowledged the challenge, stating, “We’re working on it,” and emphasized that it is still early in the development of this promising treatment.