Why chikungunya, other arthritis-causing viruses target joints

ScienceDaily | 5/16/2018 | Staff
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Scientists have understood little about how chikungunya and related viruses cause arthritis. Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified the molecular handle that chikungunya grabs to get inside cells. The findings, published May 16 in the journal Nature, could lead to ways to prevent or treat disease caused by chikungunya and related viruses.

The handle, or receptor, is located on cells that build cartilage, muscle and bone. Joints are filled with such cells, which helps explain patients' painful symptoms. Further, by creating decoy handles, the researchers showed that they could reduce chikungunya infection and signs of arthritis.

Name - Chikungunya - Makonde - Language - Tanzania

"The name chikungunya comes from the Makonde language of Tanzania, and it means 'to walk bent over.' That's how painful the arthritis can be," said senior author Michael S. Diamond, MD, PhD, the Herbert S. Gasser Professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine. "We now know how chikungunya gets into cells, and we may have found a way to block the infection. If the virus cannot get into the cell, it is unable to replicate and cause infection and disease.

There are no specific treatments or vaccines for chikungunya and related viruses, known as arthritogenic alphaviruses. Doctors simply recommend rest, fluids and over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Aid - Planet - Means - Transportation - Mosquitoes

With the aid of a warming planet and modern means of transportation, mosquitoes that carry chikungunya and related viruses are spreading. Once limited to Asia and Africa, chikungunya virus has infected more than a million people in the Caribbean and South America in an outbreak that began in 2013 and continues to this day.

Figuring out how the virus gets inside cells is considered a step toward slowing its spread. Diamond, first author and postdoctoral researcher Rong Zhang, PhD, and colleagues identified the protein on cells that chikungunya virus latches onto.

The...
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