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Dengue is a global unmet medical need

Dengue is ranked by the World Health Organization as the most important mosquito-borne viral disease in the world. Dengue disease is caused by dengue virus (DENV), which belongs to the same family of viruses as West Nile virus, Zika virus and Yellow fever virus.

After near-extinction in the early 1970s, dengue has spread to more than 125 countries and has again become endemic in the US. Half the global population is currently at risk of becoming infected with DENV. The exponential growth of the number of dengue cases reflects the global spread of the mosquito vectors, which is driven by climate changes and, more importantly, human population growth, urbanization, and globalization. It is anticipated that dengue infections continue to increase in magnitude and frequency, as the main drivers of DENV spread are projected to intensify. As an example, trade in used tires is said to influence dengue because the bottom of a tire forms a cup of stagnant water acting as the breeding ground of the vector. Major dengue outbreaks in developing countries have burdened already fragile health care systems. Consequently, dengue is considered a global health concern.

Most of the time patients develop an acute, self-limiting febrile illness with flu-like symptoms. However, occasionally it develops into lethal complications. Nevertheless, dengue is often under reported and misclassified, potentially due to its flu-like symptoms. Currently, there is no specific treatment. Only early detection and access to proper medical care such as hydration can drastically reduce fatality rates. Prevention and effective vector control help in effectively controlling the spread of the dengue virus.

Dengue virus is a human pathogen which is transmitted by Aedes Aegypti and Ae. Albopictus mosquitoes. Only the female mosquitoes bite and they are day time feeders. Therefore, protection with a bed-net at night does not help. Several factors influence the spread of the mosquitoes and therefore the dengue virus. The mosquitoes live in urban areas and breed in stagnant water, often in man-made containers. Rainfall, temperature and climate are influencing the risk.

Dengue research

At Janssen, The Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, teams are working to create a world without disease. Transforming lives by finding new and better ways to prevent, intercept, treat and cure disease. Janssen brings together the best minds and pursues the most promising science. Janssen strives to collaborate with the world for the health of everyone in it.

As part of the Johnson & Johnson commitment to Global Public Health, the Janssen Disease Management Programs team focuses on research, development and implementation of innovative & comprehensive solutions to benefit individuals, communities and healthcare providers in underserved regions. One of the research programs focuses on the development of a first in class, antiviral small molecule for the prevention and/or treatment of dengue to protect the vulnerable populations in dengue-endemic areas.

Within this context, Janssen is sponsoring a #data4good hackathon at the European Data Innovation Hub in the fall of 2016. The purpose is to discover and mash up private and public datasets to generate new dengue insights and to improve our understanding of the dengue spread through the creative use of technology and big data. Multi-disciplinary teams from  research institutes, universities, NGOs, companies, … will be invited to participate.

How can a data4good hackathon and data science in general contribute to reducing the global burden of dengue fever?

Browsing the internet will reveal numerous examples of initiatives where data helps: mosquito data maps, temperature and height maps, and mobile data monitoring people movement. Through the implementation of new innovative methods, data and data science can help to predict and stop the spread of infectious diseases. Integrating data from influencing factors such as rainfall, population, temperature, and height can predict more accurately areas at risk.


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