Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms Mimicked By Mosquito-Born Chikungunya Virus

A new study shows that the mosquito-born Chikungunya virus mimics the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, causing diagnosis to become clouded.

The study, published in January, 2015, in Arthritis & Rheumatology, included 10 St. Louis-area residents who became infected with the virus during a 2014 trip to Haiti. Seven-to-10 weeks after their symptoms began, the individuals were evaluated and compared to those people who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, eight of those infected with the virus developed symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

“All eight patients with chikungunya-related arthritis met the American College of Rheumatology’s criteria for a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis,” Dr. Jonathan Miner, the study’s lead author, said in a press release, according to Health Day.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

•Tender, warm, swollen joints
•Morning stiffness that may last for hours
•Firm bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms (rheumatoid nodules)
•Fatigue, fever and weight loss

Because the virus’ symptoms are so similar, it is vital that doctors get a detailed medical and travel history from their patients in order to get the proper diagnosis.

“For now, good travel histories of patients are among the best diagnostic tools for physicians,” the senior author of the study and professor of medicine at the university, Dr. Wayne Yokoyama, said.

“Recent travel to the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, India or other areas where the virus is prevalent should raise suspicions of chikungunya infection. In addition, the disease typically starts with high fever and abrupt onset of severe pain in the joints, which are not usually seen with rheumatoid arthritis.”

As reported by Outbreak News Today, the virus, which was first identified 60 years ago in Africa, is typically spread by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, the mosquitos also responsible for transmitting the dengue virus. It has spread into the Caribbean and Central and South America and is increasingly being seen in the United States. To date, 25 cases from eight states (Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Texas) have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’re anticipating that Chikungunya virus will spread broadly in the United States, so it’s important to develop better tools for diagnosis, prevention, and treatment,” said co-author Deborah Lenschow, MD, PhD.

Currently, there is no vaccine for the virus, and while rheumatoid arthritis is typically treated with immunosuppressants, this treatment has proven ineffective.

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