Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is transmitted to humans from mosquitos. It causes a severely debilitating disease characterized by fever, rash, and pain in muscles and joints. Chikungunya disease is emerging as a considerable health problem in Africa, Asia, and the islands of the Indian Ocean. CHIKV infection is currently modeled in mice, but mouse models do not accurately mimic the disease seen in humans and are not useful for the development of vaccines and immune cell-based therapeutics.
Now, Pierre Roques and colleagues, at the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, France, have successfully modeled CHIKV infection in cynomolgus macaques. Specifically, CHIKV infection in cynomolgus macaques was found to recapitulate the viral, clinical, and pathological features observed in CHIKV infected humans.
The research appears in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Importantly, using this model of CHIKV infection, the authors determined that CHIKV infection persisted long term in joints, muscles, lymphoid organs, and liver, and that during this long-term infection the virus resided in immune cells known as macrophages.
The authors hope this model of CHIKV infection will be useful to develop new therapeutic and/or prophylactic strategies, a sentiment echoed by Stephen Higgs and Sarah Ziegler, at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, in an accompanying commentary.
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