DOH cautions public after study finds dengue antibodies may provide some immunity vs. COVID-19

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 26) — A Department of Health official on Saturday cautioned the public against non-peer-reviewed studies after new research suggested that exposure to the dengue virus may provide some level of immunity against the coronavirus.

“Gusto nating paalalahanan ang ating mga kababayan dito po sa lumalabas na ganitong artikulo. Kailangan po natin ng sapat ng ebidensya para po masabi natin kung talagang totoo iyang hypothesis na sinasabi nila,” Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing.

[Translation: We want our fellow Filipinos to exercise caution when it comes to interpreting articles like this. We need enough evidence to say their hypothesis is indeed true.]

Vergeire was referring to a study conducted by researchers in Brazil, who found that areas that had outbreaks of dengue fever between January 2019 and July 2020 reported lower coronavirus case rates and slower infection growth.

“If proven correct, this hypothesis could mean that dengue infection or immunization with an efficacious and safe dengue vaccine could produce some level of immunological protection for SARS-CoV-2, before a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 becomes available,” the researchers said in a paper published in preprint portal medRxiv on September 21.

But Vergeire pointed out that the study has not undergone peer review, a process that vets research findings. As such, she said, the study results cannot be considered “valid and accurate.”

She added that similar studies have to be conducted to establish the link between high dengue cases and lower rates of coronavirus infections and death.