Mosquito Mayhem: The Pain of Chikungunya

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A new virus is sweeping across the country one bite at a time, and its victims may help patients who suffer from the pain of arthritis. (KFSN)

Malaria and West Nile. We've all heard about these viruses carried by mosquitos. Now, a new virus is sweeping across the country one bite at a time, and its victims may help patients who suffer from the pain of arthritis.

From Africa, to Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and across the United States - a virus is spreading - Chikungunya is passed from mosquito to person, infecting more than 1.5 million people.

It's been a year since Sarah Goymerac went on a mission trip to Haiti. She told Ivanhoe, "I woke up with fever, joint pain, rash, swelling, nausea, I didn't want to eat anything." She explained, "I'm still having some stiffness in my hands and feet."

Aches and pains, similar to rheumatoid arthritis, can last for years.

Washington University in St. Louis Rheumatologist Jonathan Miner, MD, PhD, told Ivanhoe, "I've even spoken to some patients who said they couldn't walk because their joint pain was so severe."

Dr. Miner is studying why this happens. "Chikungunya is a virus that causes inflammatory arthritis. So it invades the joints and causes severe joint swelling and pain," he said.

He compared the white blood cells in Chikungunya patients to those in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

Even though one is a virus and the other is not, there are several similarities, including morning stiffness that mostly affects the joints in the hands, wrists, feet and ankles. The difference, rheumatoid arthritis is treatable, but it doesn't go away like Chikungunya does.

"Studying Chikungunya arthritis can give us insight into the immunological mechanisms that drive joint inflammation," Dr. Miner explained. And maybe someday turn off the pain and inflammation millions of arthritis suffers live with every day.

Washington University has created a Chikungunya registry. Any patient who has suffered from it, can contact them at www.chikv@dom.wustl.edu and take part in future studies.

For more information, contact:

Judy Martin
314-286-0105
martinju@wustl.edu
Related Topics:
healthhealth watchmosquito
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