College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

10 May 2019

A tropical disease with a long history

Most people know that Dengue is a mosquito-borne tropical disease that causes a fever, joint pain and rashes. But there’s much more to one of the most significant health issues in the world.

Dengue fever was introduced to Australia after colonisation, and Australians have played a massive role in identifying and describing Dengue fever.

JCU professor and resident Dengue expert John McBride knows a lot about the scientific side of Dengue, and he’s also an expert in the tropical disease’s historical side.

“It was introduced into Australia in the early colonial days. It probably didn’t exist prior to colonisation,” John says. “A lot of people would be surprised to know, for instance, that dengue caused a lot of problems in Brisbane in the early 1900s.”

Given the long history of Dengue fever, John is a relatively new expert in a long line of Australians who have helped in the fight against the disease. He says that Queensland has a long history of epidemics, but the last two decades have seen the disease’s prevalence increase.

Old medical books
Modern vaccine
Early descriptions of Dengue fever came out of Australia, and contributed to the development of treatment

Australian borne

“Australia has a strong history of Dengue; the earliest descriptions of the complications of Dengue came out of Australia,” John says.

“The infecting mosquito that is the vector was first identified in Australia. Interesting experiments were done to establish that it was a mosquito-borne disease; this is before viruses were discovered, and to work out the type of mosquito that it was.”

John’s expertise stems from his research into Dengue, which includes a PhD, a paper on the diagnosis of the fever, laboratory research and a study into the epidemic in Charters Towers in the 1990s.

“We can all learn from history, particularly northern Queensland, but Queensland overall and put it in context as one of the blockbuster diseases internationally.”

“We can all learn from history, particularly northern Queensland, and put it in context as one of the blockbuster diseases internationally.”
JCU Professor John McBride

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