Chikungunya viral arthritis in the United States: a mimic of seronegative rheumatoid arthritis

Jonathan J Miner, Han-Xian Aw-Yeang, Julie M Fox, Samantha Taffner, Olga N Malkova, Stephen T Oh, Alfred H J Kim, Michael S Diamond, Deborah J Lenschow, Wayne M Yokoyama
Arthritis & Rheumatology 2015, 67 (5): 1214-1220

OBJECTIVE: Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an arthritogenic mosquito-transmitted alphavirus that spread to the Caribbean in 2013 and to the US in 2014. CHIKV-infected patients develop inflammatory arthritis that can persist for months or years, but little is known about the rheumatologic and immunologic features of CHIKV-related arthritis in humans, particularly as compared to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The purpose of this study was to describe these features in a group of 10 American travelers who were nearly simultaneously infected while visiting Haiti in June 2014.

METHODS: Patient history was obtained and physical examination and laboratory tests were performed. All patients with CHIKV-related arthritis had detectable levels of anti-CHIKV IgG. Using cytometry by time-of-flight (CyTOF), we analyzed peripheral blood mononuclear cells in CHIKV-infected patients, healthy controls, and patients with untreated, active RA.

RESULTS: Among 10 CHIKV-infected individuals, 8 developed persistent symmetric polyarthritis that met the American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism 2010 criteria for (seronegative) RA. CyTOF analysis revealed that RA and CHIKV-infected patients had greater percentages of activated and effector CD4+ and CD8+ T cells than healthy controls.

CONCLUSION: In addition to similar clinical features, patients with CHIKV infection and patients with RA develop very similar peripheral T cell phenotypes. These overlapping clinical and immunologic features highlight a need for rheumatologists to consider CHIKV infection when evaluating patients with new, symmetric polyarthritis.

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