Researchers create first chikungunya animal model

February 19, 2008

Researchers have developed the first animal model of the infection caused by chikungunya virus (CHIKV), an emerging arbovirus associated with large-scale epidemics that hit the Indian Ocean (especially the French Island of La Réunion) in 2005, later spreading to India, and Italy in 2007. Using this mouse model, scientists of the Institut Pasteur and INSERM determined which tissues and cells are infected by the virus in both the mild and severe forms of the disease it causes. They detail their findings in an article published February 15 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens.

The main symptoms of CHIKV —fever, joint and muscle pains, and skin rash— are now well known by the medical community and the general public. However, the pathophysiology of this infection remains poorly understood, notably the factors responsible for severe disease with neurological manifestations, which are mainly observed among newborns and the elderly.

The CHIKV animal model carries a deletion of a gene encoding one of the key proteins in the innate antiviral immune response. When only one of the two copies of the gene is deleted, the mice mimic the disease in its benign form. With both versions deleted, and therefore no ability to produce the protein, they constitute a model for the severe forms of the infection.

With this model, the researchers show how after an initial phase of viral replication in the liver, the infection extends to the joints, muscles and skin — where the symptoms materialize in humans. In the most severe cases, it then disseminates to the central nervous system. The model also allowed the investigators to study the mother-to-child transmission of the virus, a complication that was recorded for the first time during the La Réunion outbreak.

The development of this first mouse model provides chikungunya researchers with an experimental tool that sheds light on the pathophysiology of the infection, paving the way for future treatments and vaccine candidates against this emerging viral disease in vivo.

Citation: Couderc T, Chre´tien F, Schilte C, Disson O, Brigitte M, et al. (2008) A mouse model for Chikungunya: young age and inefficient type-I interferon signaling are risk factors for severe disease. PLoS Pathog 4(2): e29. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.0040029

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: How a molecular motor untangles protein

Related Stories

How a molecular motor untangles protein

October 1, 2015

A marvelous molecular motor that untangles protein in bacteria may sound interesting, yet perhaps not so important. Until you consider the hallmarks of several neurodegenerative diseases—Huntington's disease has tangled ...

Team re-engineers virus to deliver therapies to cells

September 21, 2015

Stanford researchers have ripped the guts out of a virus and totally redesigned its core to repurpose its infectious capabilities into a safe vehicle for delivering vaccines and therapies directly where they are needed.

Modelling the dynamics of avalanche outbreaks

September 18, 2015

(—The 1918 outbreak of Spanish flu was so unlike other pandemics that it is analogous to a massive natural disaster. The H1N1 virus infected an estimated 500 million people and killed 100 million by some estimates. ...

Scientists identify protein at death's door of cells

September 17, 2015

A protein embedded in the surface of mitochondria - the energy-producing batteries of living cells - opens the door to cell death, causing cells to experience severe power failures, according to new work by researchers at ...

Recommended for you

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

Blue skies, frozen water detected on Pluto

October 8, 2015

Pluto has blue skies and patches of frozen water, according to the latest data out Thursday from NASA's unmanned New Horizons probe, which made a historic flyby of the dwarf planet in July.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.