Severe disease during both primary and secondary dengue virus infections in pediatric populations

Nat Med. 2024 Mar;30(3):670-674. doi: 10.1038/s41591-024-02798-x. Epub 2024 Feb 6.


Dengue is a global epidemic causing over 100 million cases annually. The clinical symptoms range from mild fever to severe hemorrhage and shock, including some fatalities. The current paradigm is that these severe dengue cases occur mostly during secondary infections due to antibody-dependent enhancement after infection with a different dengue virus serotype. India has the highest dengue burden worldwide, but little is known about disease severity and its association with primary and secondary dengue infections. To address this issue, we examined 619 children with febrile dengue-confirmed infection from three hospitals in different regions of India. We classified primary and secondary infections based on IgM:IgG ratios using a dengue-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay according to the World Health Organization guidelines. We found that primary dengue infections accounted for more than half of total clinical cases (344 of 619), severe dengue cases (112 of 202) and fatalities (5 of 7). Consistent with the classification based on binding antibody data, dengue neutralizing antibody titers were also significantly lower in primary infections compared to secondary infections (P ≤ 0.0001). Our findings question the currently widely held belief that severe dengue is associated predominantly with secondary infections and emphasizes the importance of developing vaccines or treatments to protect dengue-naive populations.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Child
  • Coinfection* / epidemiology
  • Dengue Virus*
  • Dengue* / epidemiology
  • Fever
  • Humans
  • Severe Dengue* / epidemiology


  • Antibodies, Viral