Background: Chikungunya (CHIK) virus is a mosquito-transmitted alphavirus that causes in humans an acute infection characterised by fever, polyarthralgia, head-ache, and myalgia. Since 2005, the emergence of CHIK virus was associated with an unprecedented magnitude outbreak of CHIK disease in the Indian Ocean. Clinically, this outbreak was characterized by invalidating poly-arthralgia, with myalgia being reported in 97.7% of cases. Since the cellular targets of CHIK virus in humans are unknown, we studied the pathogenic events and targets of CHIK infection in skeletal muscle.
Methodology/principal findings: Immunohistology on muscle biopsies from two CHIK virus-infected patients with myositic syndrome showed that viral antigens were found exclusively inside skeletal muscle progenitor cells (designed as satelllite cells), and not in muscle fibers. To evaluate the ability of CHIK virus to replicate in human satellite cells, we assessed virus infection on primary human muscle cells; viral growth was observed in CHIK virus-infected satellite cells with a cytopathic effect, whereas myotubes were essentially refractory to infection.
Conclusions/significance: This report provides new insights into CHIK virus pathogenesis, since it is the first to identify a cellular target of CHIK virus in humans and to report a selective infection of muscle satellite cells by a viral agent in humans.