Lenschow et al. at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine discovered a novel drug therapy for early stage Chikungunya arthritis in mice. The therapy involves the combination of two drugs, one that is normally used for rheumatoid arthritis and a second drug used as antiviral therapy for Chikungunya virus. Severe symptoms of Chikungunya include persistent joint pain, fatigue, and arthritis.
Two (abatacept and tofacitinib) of the six rheumatoid arthritis drugs being tested were seen to significantly reduce swelling and the amount of immune cells in mice models without exacerbating viral replication. To test the combinatorial effects of the rheumatoid arthritis drug and the antiviral drug, the mice were infected with Chikungunya and three days later, administered either just abatacept, just antiviral drugs, or both drugs. The administration of both drugs had a synergistic impact and the swelling of the joints as well as virus levels in the joints were eradicated; however, these drugs only worked in mice who were given the drugs during the acute phase and not the chronic phase. Therefore, this combinatorial drug therapy may be applicable to patients who are administered the drug within one week post-infection. Future research on this drug includes the development of a drug therapy that can be applicable to chronic pain patients.
The development of this drug will greatly impact global efforts to treat Chikungunya. In the early 2000s, the virus was only seen in East Africa and South Asia; however, the virus has been spreading rapidly and is now found in the Western Hemisphere, with nearly 1.8 million people impacted by the disease in the Americas.
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~Michelle Bach (Humans and Viruses 2016-2017)