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Abstract: Dengue infection causes significant morbidity and mortality in over 100 countries worldwide, and its incidence is on the rise. The pathophysiological basis for the development of severe dengue, characterized by plasma leakage and the “shock syndrome” are poorly understood. No specific treatment or vaccine is available, and careful monitoring and judicious administration of fluids forms the mainstay of management at present. It is postulated that vascular endothelial dysfunction, induced by cytokine and chemical mediators, is an important mechanism of plasma leakage. Although corticosteroids are potent modulators of the immune system, their role in pharmacological doses in modulating the purported immunological effects that take place in severe dengue has been a subject of controversy. The key evidence related to the role of corticosteroids for various manifestations of dengue are reviewed here. In summary, there is currently no high-quality evidence supporting the beneficial effects of corticosteroids for treatment of shock, prevention of serious complications, or increasing platelet counts. Non-randomized trials of corticosteroids given as rescue medication for severe shock have shown possible benefit. Nonetheless, the evidence base is small, and good-quality trials are lacking. We reiterate the need for well-designed and adequately powered randomized controlled trials of corticosteroids for the treatment of dengue shock.
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