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Chikungunya- broadening our knowledge about this mysterious virus

Chikungunya- broadening our knowledge about this mysterious virus

Publish date: 2015-12-14

Chikungunya is an Alphavirus which belongs to the Togaviridae family. It is transmitted by two species of mosquitoes. Its name means "to become contorted" or "that which is bent up" in the language of people in Tanzania (where the virus was described for the first time). It refers to the specific stature of joint pains sufferer.

Tags: epidemic , Chikungunya Virus , encephalitis


Chikungunya’s symptoms are typical for a diseases triggered by mosquito-borne viruses. Two to four days after exposure a fever starts and it may last even for a week. Accompanying joint pains often make people think that it is just a normal flu. But in case of Chikungunya infection they may last for a longer time- whole weeks, months, even years. They may also left some permanent changes or turn into a chronic arthritis. Apart from the flu and a typical infection, Chikungunya virus is also often mistakenly treated as a Dengue Fever, which is caused by the Dengue virus. But Chikungunya virus leads to many other  symptoms, not only fever and joint pains, such as rash, chronic fatigue, insomnia, head pains, digestive problems and conjunctivitis. Chikungunya infection leads to the death of one person among 1000 infected ones.

Latest data published in Neurology Journal suggest that Chikungunya virus may be far more dangerous, than it was initially expected. Dr Patrick Gérardin from the Central University Hospital in Saint Pierre, Reunion Island conducted a study, which suggest that infection may be connected with impairment of central nervous system functioning and development of such a state as encephalitis (an infection of the brain).

Reunion Island is an island located in the Indian Ocean. It is a place of the biggest Chikungunya epidemic outbreak ever noted. It took place from the late March of 2005 to the February of 2006. At its peak there were 25000 of new cases diagnosed each week, what gives more than 3500 cases per day. About 110 000 people were affected, from the whole Reunion Island population which counts about 800 000 citizens.

Dr Patrick Gérardin and his team conducted a studies with an aim of assessing the epidemic consequences, as well as measuring the incidence of central nervous system impairments among the infected people. They analyzed patients health three years after an epidemic outbreak, so as to check the long-term consequences. People qualified for this study were confirmed to be Chikungunya- positive and to fulfill criteria of an International Encephalitis Consortium for encephalitis or encephalopathy. Outcomes of the study indicates that between 2005 and 2006, 57 people were diagnosed with Chikungunya- associated central nervous system disease, including 24 people with encephalitis. The case- fatality rate of people suffering from Chikungunya- associated encephalitis was 16%.  Proportion of children discharged with some persistent disabilities was up to 45%. Outcomes of Dr Patrick Gérardin  studies leave no doubts that Chikungunya virus contributes to the central nervous system impairments, including cases of encephalitis.

We also had an opportunity to talk with dr Karl Ljungberg from the  Karolinska Institutet and Public Health Agency of Sweden. He focused our attention on some other aspects of Chikungunya virus studies- development of potential vaccine and advancement of works at this topic. Dr Karl Ljungberg admits- So far there is no vaccine against Chikungunya virus, but in our research group we have quite a long history of being interested in it. Together with a long experience, it made us have some success at his field. So far we have tested several different vaccines candidates, that we produced. We conducted preclinical trials on mice and from these trials we selected three main candidates, that we moved forward to some non-human primates models. What we see in these models, is that we induced strong immune responses, that are able to prevent infections in the organism, that they were used to.


Natalia Martuzalska


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