Essays on Science and SocietyGLOBAL VOICES OF SCIENCE

Deciphering Dengue: The Cuban Experience

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Science  02 Sep 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5740, pp. 1495-1497
DOI: 10.1126/science.1115177

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The emergence of new diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the reemergence of ones previously thought to be scourges of the past, such as West Nile virus, are waking the public health community from what virologist María Guzmán of the Tropical Medicine Institute Pedro Kourí (IPK) in Havana, Cuba, refers to as the "comfort zone," referring to the preceding decades marked by medicine's successes against diseases like polio and smallpox. Since the late 1970s, Cuba has experienced multiple epidemics of dengue, a viral disease that now has a global distribution. Guzmán chronicles the multi-pronged research that she and her colleagues have been conducting throughout this period in an effort to expose the virus's molecular details, as well as the biological responses it evokes in those infected with the virus. The great strides that she and her colleagues have been able to take in this research arena stem from commitments that Cuba has made to public health and education since the late 1960s.

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