A new class of antibodies that has the ability to make four strains of dengue fever was discovered by scientists.

The discovery could lead to the development of better vaccines and laboratory tests that would hopefully reduce the incidence rates of dengue, according to a University of Melbourne study.

"There is an urgent need to reduce incidence of people suffering dengue, and understand the human immune response to infection and the response following vaccination," said study co-author Professor Cameron Simmons from the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity ."This unique discovery makes the future development of vaccines that could prevent the spread of the disease a realistic goal and may also pave the way for a universal DENV vaccine."

To make their findings researchers analyzed a large group of anti-dengue antibodies from human patients who had suffered from the virus. They found this new group of antibodies could effectively neutralize the virus by binding to the epitope ("unique structure that antibodies can recognise and bind to") that is present in all strains of the disease.

Dengue fever is still spreading, and the geographical regions it affects are widening. The illness is now a potential threat to the Unites States , Australia and even southern Europe.

Dengue fever is characterized by symptoms such as "sudden, high fever; severe headaches; pain behind the eyes; severe joint and muscle pain; nausea; vomiting; skin rash, which appears three to four days after the onset of fever; mild bleeding (such a nose bleed, bleeding gums, or easy bruising)," according to WebMD.

These symptoms can be mild and are often mistaken for the flu, but serious problems such as "dengue hemorrhagic fever, a rare complication characterized by high fever, damage to lymph and blood vessels, bleeding from the nose and gums, enlargement of the liver, and failure of the circulatory system" can occur. These severe symptoms could lead to a condition called dengue shock syndrome (DSS) and even death. It is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito.