Public Release: 

Repurposing 2 autoimmune drugs for chikungunya virus

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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IMAGE: This is an infographic describing the disease burden of Chikungunya virus. view more

Credit: [Credit: Carla Schaffer / Miner et al. and Teo et al. / Science Translational Medicine]

Two new studies explore strategies that could offer relief from the debilitating joint pain caused by Chikungunya virus infections, an emerging disease with no known therapies. Chikungunya virus is a mosquito-borne illness that has rapidly spread throughout the Americas, with more than 1.7 million suspected cases since the first incidence of local transmission was detected in the Caribbean in 2013. The treatment regimens employed drugs that have already been approved for human use in other applications, and each reduced joint swelling in mice infected with the virus - potentially paving the way to much needed therapeutic options. Both groups of researchers found a potential means to stop T cells from inappropriately trafficking to the joints and causing arthritis, a hallmark of acute Chikungunya virus infection - using a mouse model of the disease. Teck-Hui Teo and team showed infected mice given the multiple sclerosis therapy Fingolimid (which prevents T cells from leaving the lymph nodes) experienced less joint inflammation. Corroborating these results further, Jonathan Miner and colleagues found that the rheumatoid arthritis drug Abatacept (which hinders T cell activation in the lymph nodes) decreased inflammation in the joints of infected mice, and abolished arthritis completely when given in combination with an antibody targeting the virus. A Focus by Philippe Gasque and Marie Christine Jaffar-Bandjee highlights that additional investigation is warranted to determine whether these types of T cell-blocking approaches could also address the chronic arthritis that occasionally persists in affected individuals, months after clearing the initial infection.

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