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24 - 05 - 2018

Chikungunya: identification of a therapeutic target

Researchers have identified a surface molecule on human and animal cells that could be a therapeutic target in the fight against the chikungunya virus and other pathogens.


The chikungunya virus is transmitted by a mosquito bite. It causes in humans fever, joint pain and arthritis. It is present in Africa, Asia, Europe, as well as in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Since 2013, it is also present in America. There is currently no specific treatment.

Researchers used the CRISPR-Cas9 method to identify the Mxra8 surface adhesion molecule as an entry mediator for several emerging alphaviruses that cause arthritis, including the chikungunya virus.

They showed in vitro that the varying expression of this protein causes a parallele variation in the strength of the cells' infection.

In human and mouse cells, the Mxra8 protein binds to the chikungunya virus and promotes its entry into the cells. Similarly, anti-Mxra8 antibodies block infection of cells with the chikungunya virus.

In mice, in experimental models of infection with chikungunya virus or O'nyong-nyong virus, blockage of Mxra8 protein by antibodies decreases infection and articular involvement.

These studies show the interest of targeting the Mxra8 protein to treat infections with alphaviruses that cause arthritis.