Chikungunya disease is a severely debilitating, mosquito-borne, viral illness that has reached epidemic proportions in Africa, Asia, and the islands of the Indian Ocean. A mutation enhancing the ability of the chikungunya virus (CHIKV) to infect and be transmitted by Aedes albopictus has increased the geographical range at risk for infection due to the continuing global spread of this mosquito. Research into disease pathogenesis, vaccine development, and therapeutic design has been hindered by the lack of appropriate animal models of this disease. The meticulous study reported in this issue of the JCI by Labadie et al. is one of the first reports describing CHIKV infection of adult immunocompetent nonhuman primates. Using traditional and modern molecular and immunological approaches, the authors demonstrate that macaques infected with CHIKV are a good model of human CHIKV infection and also show that persistent arthralgia in humans may be caused by persistent CHIKV infection of macrophages.
Stephen Higgs, Sarah A. Ziegler