February 12, 2020
2 min read

History of dengue infection increases risk for leukemia

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Guey Chuen Perng, PhD,
Guey Chuen Perng

Individuals with a history of dengue virus infection had more than twice the risk for developing leukemia as those without a history of dengue, according to results of a population-based study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Researchers observed the increased leukemia risk between 3 and 6 years after dengue infection.

“It has been estimated that approximately 15% of human cancers globally are caused by infections, which are potentially preventable,” Guey Chuen Perng, PhD, professor of basic medical sciences in the department of microbiology at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, said in a press release. “Dengue fever, [although] usually self-limiting, can result in abnormal hematologic profiles and bone marrow suppression. However, whether people with previous dengue infection have a higher risk for developing leukemia remains unknown.”

Global incidence of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne infectious disease, has increased dramatically, with an estimated 390 million people infected each year. Of those, 25% are symptomatic.

To determine whether previous dengue infection increased risk for leukemia, Perng and colleagues used the National Health Insurance Research Databases in Taiwan to identify 12,573 individuals (50.3% male; 77.5% aged 18-65 years) with a history of dengue and 62,865 controls, matched five-to-one with each case by sex, age, area of residence and calendar year of the index date.

Leukemia served as the study’s primary outcome of interest.

Median follow-up was 8.22 years for cases and controls.

Results showed individuals with prior dengue infection had a higher risk for leukemia than controls (adjusted HR [aHR] = 2.03; 95% CI, 1.16-3.53).

Overall incidence rates of leukemia, per 100,000 person-years, were 17.2 (95% CI, 10.35-26.86) for the dengue group and 7.85 (95% CI, 5.68-10.57) for the control group.

Stratified analyses showed significant associations between dengue virus and higher risk for leukemia only between 3 and 6 years after infection (aHR = 3.22; 95% CI, 1.25-8.32).

Researchers observed no significant associations between dengue and risk for other types of cancers.

“Dengue virus infection was associated with a higher risk [for] leukemia, particularly after 3 years of infection, but was not associated with other cancers,” Perng and colleagues wrote. “Although this study provides epidemiologic evidence for the association between dengue virus infection and leukemia, further epidemiologic and experimental studies are required to verify this association and to unravel the potential mechanisms of pathogenesis.” – by John DeRosier

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.