The Chikungunya virus is surging in South America, but a new discovery may help combat it.
Driving the news: South America has seen up to a quarter-million new cases of the virus in 2023.
* The outbreak is most severe in Paraguay, with over 100,000 diagnoses.
* The mosquito-borne disease’s footprint is growing due to the changing climate and warmer temperatures, which promote mosquitoes’ survival.
* While rarely fatal, the disease causes long-lasting joint pain, and new advances may help combat it.
Emerging Understanding: A recent study has identified a new method the virus uses to infect cells.
* Chikungunya induces infected cells to generate long extensions that reach out to neighboring cells, shielding the virus from antibodies and infecting the new cells.
* This discovery could be crucial in solving why the virus causes debilitating arthritis and could prove significant for vaccine development.
The Future Fight: The need for efficacious vaccines is crucial to control the disease’s spread.
* Several vaccine efforts are underway, with one possibly being approved by the end of the year.
* The new method of infection found might require specific attention in vaccine design.
Medical Insight: Dr. Susana Lloveras highlighted the debilitating effects of the virus.
* She mentioned how patients suddenly become unable to move due to severe joint pain and require others’ help for day-to-day tasks.
* Despite the body generating antibodies, some sufferers experience joint pain for months or even years.
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