What is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya (Makonde for ‘disease that bends up the joints’) is a musculoskeletal, viral illness that is spread by mosquitoes found primarily in the tropics and sub-tropics. In Africa it is an enzootic infection of nonhuman primates. Over the centuries, chikungunya spilled over into human populations and caused numerous outbreaks of febrile, arthritic disease in many parts of the world, including the Caribbean. Most recently, chikungunya reemerged to spread throughout the world, and it is now endemic in the Americas.
What Causes Chikungunya?
Chikungunya is caused by infection with chikungunya virus (CHIKV), a mosquito-borne alphavirus of the Togaviridae family. The mosquito species most important for endemic/epidemic transmission of CHIKV among humans are the anthropophilic, day-biting Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus. These mosquitoes also transmit the viruses that cause yellow fever, Zika and dengue. CHIKV is transmitted when a female mosquito bites a viremic host. The virus must infect the mosquito before it can transmit to another human host several days later.
What are Chikungunya Symptoms?
The most common symptoms associated with chikungunya are severe polyarthralgia (joint pain), fever, rash, headache, and myalgia. Most (85–95%) infections are associated with symptoms. While deaths due to chikungunya are rare, the arthralgia can be severely debilitating during the acute phase of the infection. Also, in some cases joint pain and stiffness can persist for weeks or months, and sometimes for years after the infection.
What are Trends in Chikungunya Epidemiology?
In 2004, an epidemic strain of chikungunya virus emerged that caused enormous outbreaks in the Indian Ocean. A key genetic mutation in the virus enabled it to transmit efficiently in Ae. albopictus mosquitoes, which are found in many temperate areas of the world. Subsequently, outbreaks occurred in Europe when travelers to India returned with chikungunya virus infections. In 2013, the virus made it to the Western Hemisphere. By 2016, it had spread to 48 countries in the region and infected more than 1 million people. Currently, chikungunya is estimated to be present in 94 countries across the globe, where 1.3 billion people are at risk.
PaxVax’s Chikungunya Vaccine Pipeline Candidate
PaxVax is working on a candidate vaccine in partnership with the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Defense. PaxVax has in-licensed the NIH virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine technology for chikungunya that is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials.