The study was
conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St.
published in PLOS Pathogens
, was led by Dr.
Deborah Lenschow, MD, PhD, who is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the
Division of Rheumatology at Washington University School of Medicine in St.
Chikungunya and its Complications Chikungunya
derives its name from the Swahili
, which literally
means "that which bends up"
, referring to the
stooped and contorted posture exhibited by chikungunya patients due to the
excruciating joint pain
caused by the
Chikungunya is a
mosquito-borne viral disease that is spread by the bite of Aedes
mosquitoes. The three cardinal signs of
chikungunya are fever
, rash and joint pain, of which, the joint pain
is the most severe.
approximately 30-60 percent of chikungunya
patients suffer from persistent joint pain
that lasts for
months to even years after the initial CHIKV infection. The exact underlying
cause of this persistent joint pain is unknown, as the virus is not found
during the chronic phase of the disease.
What were the Findings of the Reporter
The research team developed a novel reporter system to elucidate the cause of persistent
joint pain, despite the absence of any replicating virus during the chronic
The reporter system
was used to permanently mark cells that survived CHIKV infection in a mouse
model of chikungunya.
The research team found that the marked surviving cells included a
mixture of muscle and skin cells that persisted for approximately 112 days
after the initial infection. Blocking CHIKV infection by
a specific antibody into the mice significantly reduced the
levels of marked cells in the muscle and skin. Importantly, the surviving
marked cells harbored most of the persisting CHIKV RNA (ribonucleic acid).
taken together, indicate that muscle and skin cells are the primary targets of
during both the acute and chronic
phases of the disease.
indicate that the reporter system is a robust and powerful tool for detecting
and isolating cells harboring viral RNA, which will help in closely studying
the underlying mechanisms involved in chronic chikungunya disease.
They are optimistic
that uncovering these underlying mechanisms, could help to develop treatments
strategies for controlling the chronic, painful arthritis experienced by the
"Persistent CHIKV RNA can be detected in human and animal models but no
one has been able to identify where the RNA resides due to insensitive
says Lenschow. "Using
our reporter system, we
have demonstrated that cells can survive CHIKV infection, and these cells
harbor most of the persistent RNA. Since many believe that this persistent RNA
contributes to chronic arthritis, this system will be a useful tool to study
the mechanisms underlying chronic disease."
The major funding
for the study was from the National Institutes of Health. Subsidiary funding
came from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and Shriners
Hospitals for Children - St. Louis, USA.
- Dermal and Muscle Fibroblasts and Skeletal Myofibers Survive Chikungunya Virus Infection and Harbor Persistent RNA - (https://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1007993)