The Chikungunya virus infection zones have now quickly spread from Africa to parts of Asia, North America and Europe. Originally thought to trigger a disease of only mild symptoms, recently Chikungunya virus caused large-scale fatalities and widespread economic loss that was linked to recent virus genetic mutation and evolution. Due to the paucity of information on Chikungunya immunological progression, we investigated the serum levels of 13 cytokines/chemokines during the acute phase of Chikungunya disease and 6- and 12-month post-infection follow-up from patients of the Italian outbreak. We found that CXCL9/MIG, CCL2/MCP-1, IL-6 and CXCL10/IP-10 were significantly raised in the acute phase compared to follow-up samples. Furthermore, IL-1β, TNF-α, Il-12, IL-10, IFN-γ and IL-5 had low initial acute phase levels that significantly increased at later time points. Analysis of symptom severity showed association with CXCL9/MIG, CXCL10/IP-10 and IgG levels. These data give insight into Chikungunya disease establishment and subsequent convalescence, which is imperative to the treatment and containment of this quickly evolving and frequently re-emerging disease.
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is transmitted by mosquitoes and causes a human disease clinically characterized by sudden appearance of high fever, rash, headache, nausea, and severe joint pain (the defining symptom). Chikungunya was identified in Africa and the word Chikungunya means that which bends up, describing the bent posture of CHIKV patients while in severe pain. CHIKV, a current problem in Africa, Indian Ocean region, and Southeast Asia, is now spreading to temperate regions of North America, France and Italy. Presently, the immune response for CHIKV infection remains largely uninvestigated and no treatment is available. We investigated cytokine profiles at diagnosis and follow-up of CHIKV infected patients during the Italian 2007 outbreak and associated cytokine levels with antibody level and symptom severity. Cytokines, important immune mediators, are often drug targets. Since CHIKV symptoms can persist for months or years following infection it is important to investigate possible drug targets to alleviate discomfort. We found cytokine profiles that describe the initial infection and recovery phase. We determined the cytokines CXCL9/MIG and CXCL10/IP-10 as well as antibody levels were associated with symptom severity. These results reflect previously unreported cytokine profiles which may be important for the development of future therapeutics for CHIKV outbreaks.