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Virus responsible for arthritis hide in body for months after infection: Study

ANI | Updated: Sep 01, 2019 14:28 IST

Washington D.C [USA], Sep 1 (ANI): Some people infected with chikungunya virus develop chronic arthritis that lasts long as the virus or its genetic material persists in the body undetected even after the infection is cured, suggests a study.
The study conducted on mice was published in the journal 'PLOS Pathogens.'
"Between 30 per cent and 60 per cent of people infected with chikungunya virus go on to develop chronic arthritis that can last up to three or four years after infection. Researchers had found viral RNA in joint fluid from people with chronic arthritis, but they didn't know whether the virus had gone dormant or whether it was still multiplying and infecting new cells at an undetectably low level," said Deborah Lenschow, study's senior author.
Researchers genetically modified the virus such that it activated a fluorescent tag within cells during infection. Months after the initial infection, the researchers could detect glowing red cells still harboring viral RNA.
"We found the virus in muscle cells and in connective tissue cells in the skin and muscle. These cells likely had become infected within the first week of the virus invading the body, yet managed to survive. They were still there in the muscles and joints up to 114 days after infection, and they still had viral RNA inside them," said Marissa Locke, co-first author of the study.
Lenschow said that one hypothesis would be that the viral RNA that's persisting in the cells is triggering chronic inflammation, and that is what contributes to the symptoms of arthritis. For reasons that we don't understand, inflammation fails to get rid of the viral RNA, or at least not quickly.
"We're a long way from having treatment to offer people. But the first step to developing a therapy is to understand the cause of the symptoms, and this technique helps us accomplish that. If we understand the cause, that could hopefully lead us to identify therapeutic interventions to help alleviate some of the chronic symptoms," said Lenschow. (ANI)