Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Pinpointing Persistent Pain

Marking cells infected with chikungunya to understand how the virus lingers causing pain

04 November 2019

Pinpointing Persistent Pain

Nobody likes a guest who overstays their welcome. Particularly one that wasn’t invited in the first place. Chikungunya is a virus spread spread by mosquitoes that causes fever and severe muscle and joint pain that can persist for months. The cause of this lingering is unclear as researchers have struggled to track the virus during this chronic phase of the illness. To catch it in action, a new study developed a ‘reporter virus’ that permanently marked cells infected by chikungunya (red in the mouse foot pictured 28 days after infection). This molecular tell-tale revealed viral material 112 days after initial infection, and was then used to test what effect a potential treatment has on the number of infected cells and their persistence. The new approach presents a useful tool to pick out cells that harbour traces of infection and cause long term problems, which will ultimately help restrict their impact.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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