Arthritogenic alphaviruses--an overview

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2012 May 8;8(7):420-9. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2012.64.


Mosquito-transmitted alphaviruses causing human rheumatic disease are globally distributed and include chikungunya virus, Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus, Sindbis virus, o'nyong-nyong virus and Mayaro virus. These viruses cause endemic disease and, occasionally, large epidemics; for instance, the 2004-2011 chikungunya epidemic resulted in 1.4-6.5 million cases, with imported cases reported in nearly 40 countries. The disease is usually self-limiting and characterized by acute and chronic symmetrical peripheral polyarthralgia-polyarthritis, with acute disease usually including fever, myalgia and/or rash. Arthropathy can be debilitating, usually lasts weeks to months and can be protracted; although adequate attention to differential diagnoses is recommended. The latest chikungunya virus epidemic was also associated with some severe disease manifestations and mortality, primarily in elderly patients with comorbidities and the young. Chronic alphaviral rheumatic disease probably arises from inflammatory responses stimulated by the virus persisting in joint tissues, despite robust antiviral immune responses. Serodiagnosis by ELISA is the standard; although international standardization is often lacking. Treatment usually involves simple analgesics and/or NSAIDs, which can provide relief, but better drug treatments are clearly needed. However, the small market size and/or the unpredictable and rapid nature of epidemics present major hurdles for development and deployment of new alphavirus-specific interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Alphavirus / immunology
  • Alphavirus / pathogenicity*
  • Alphavirus Infections / complications*
  • Alphavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Alphavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Alphavirus Infections / therapy
  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Infectious / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Arthritis, Infectious / therapy
  • Arthritis, Infectious / virology*
  • Chikungunya Fever
  • Chronic Disease
  • Endemic Diseases
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insect Vectors
  • Mosquito Control
  • Serologic Tests
  • Viral Vaccines


  • Viral Vaccines