The yet to be published scientific study compared the geographic distribution of coronavirus cases with the spread of dengue in 2019 and 2020 Credit: Representational Image

Guwahati: A recent study on the coronavirus conducted in Brazil found that there was a link between the outbreaks of dengue fever and the spread of COVID-19, suggesting that exposure to dengue provides some level of immunity against COVID-19.

The yet to be published scientific study led by Miguel Nicolelis, a professor at Duke University, in collaboration with University of São Paulo in Brazil, and shared exclusively with Reuters, compared the geographic distribution of coronavirus cases with the spread of dengue in 2019 and 2020.

The study was being published on the MedRxiv preprint server and is awaiting peer review.

Places with lower coronavirus infection rates and slower case growth were locations that had suffered intense dengue outbreaks in the past two years, Nicolelis found.

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Lesser numbers may indicate that there is cross-reactivity between the two viruses. “This striking finding raises the intriguing possibility of immunological cross-reactivity between dengue’s flavivirus serotypes and SARS-CoV-2,” the study said, referring to dengue virus antibodies and the novel coronavirus.

As per the findings of the study, if the hypothesis is confirmed, then the Dengue vaccine can be effective for the new infection. It will provide the body with the necessary immune system response.

Nicolelis told Reuters the results are intriguing as earlier studies have shown that people with dengue antibodies in their blood can falsely test positive for COVID-19 antibodies even if they have never contracted the coronavirus.

It showcases a significant correlation between lower incidence, mortality and growth rate of COVID-19 in populations in Brazil where the levels of antibodies to dengue has been higher.

Brazil is the third worst-affected country by the Covid pandemic, with more than 4.4 million cases, only behind the United States and India.

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The dengue discovery in relation to coronavirus was however not intentional. Miguel’s study came across this observation when they were focusing on how COVID-19 had spread through Brazil, in which they found that highways played a major role in the distribution of cases across the country.

If the reports hold up, it would be significant for India where a fair amount of dengue cases are reported every year. The disease is endemic in at least 100 countries, mainly in South America and Asia, according to the World Health Organization.

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