Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) can infect humans, but it has natural reservoirs in monkeys, birds, cattle, and rodents. It is a member of the Togaviridae family of viruses, in the alphavirus genus. Because it is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes, which are arthropods, it can also be referred to as an arbovirus (arthropod-borne virus). It is an enveloped virus which carries a single stranded RNA genome within its capsid.
In humans, CHIKV initially causes fever that usually lasts two to seven days, and is characterised by severe joint pains that last weeks or months, sometimes even years.
- Sudden fever
- Joint pains (arthralgia)
- Rash characterised by raised, spotted lesions
CHIKV is passed to humans by mosquitoes, namely Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. The virus can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or birth.
Since 2004, the disease has occurred in outbreaks in Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Impact for Society – what are we doing?
Since 2006 a chikungunya epidemic has caused millions of cases of arthralgia in the islands of the Indian Ocean, the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia. Studies at the Institute are in progress to investigate the mechanisms by which CHIKV persists and causes disease, in particular the development of arthralgia. Much of this work is part of an EU (FP7) programme, Integrated Research on Chikungunya (ICRES) which involves many international partner laboratories.
* Image by Cynthia Goldsmith, James A. Comer, and Barbara Johnson courtesy of Public Health Image Library (PHIL)