Comparison of clinical and laboratory parameters of primary vs secondary dengue fever in travellers

Sharon Avrami, Tomer Hoffman, Eyal Meltzer, Yaniv Lustig, Eli Schwartz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Dengue fever (DF), caused by the dengue virus (DENV), is the most common arboviral disease in travellers worldwide. It is hypothesized that compared with primary DF, secondary DF may result in antibody-dependent enhancement of the immune response, resulting in more severe disease. We aimed to compare clinical and laboratory parameters in travellers with primary and secondary DF to determine whether secondary DF is associated with markers of severe disease. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study, which included all patients diagnosed with DF at the Central Virology Laboratory of the Israeli Ministry of Health during 2008–19. Clinical, laboratory and virological data were extracted from laboratory and patient records. A diagnosis of DENV infection was based on a positive nonstructural protein 1 (NS1) test, polymerase chain reaction or serology testing for immunoglobulin M (IgM) and immunoglobulin G (IgG). Primary and secondary infections were classified based on travel history, NS1 result and IgM/IgG ratio. Severe DF was defined according to WHO classification. Results: We identified 245 DF cases: 210 (86%) primary and 35 (14%) secondary. Whilst fever duration was significantly longer in secondary compared with primary infections (6.4 vs 5.3 days, P = 0.027), mean Aspartate aminotransferase levels were significantly higher in primary compared with secondary cases (146 vs 65 U/L, P < 0.001), and no other clinical or laboratory parameter differed significantly between the groups. Of note, only four patients had severe DF, all had primary infections and none died. Conclusions: In a cohort of returning travellers with DF, secondary infection, compared with primary infection, was not associated with a consistent trend towards greater severity of the clinical and laboratory markers examined in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbertaad129
JournalJournal of Travel Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Israel
  • antibody-dependent enhancement
  • dengue virus
  • primary dengue fever
  • secondary dengue fever
  • severe dengue fever
  • travellers


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