Chikungunya virus infection: an overview

New Microbiol. 2013 Jul;36(3):211-27. Epub 2013 Jun 30.


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-transmitted alphavirus belonging to the Togaviridae family, first isolated in Tanzania in 1952. The main vectors are mosquitoes from the Aedes species. Recently, the establishment of an envelope mutation increased infectivity for A. albopictus. CHIKV has recently re-emerged causing millions of infections in countries around the Indian Ocean characterized by climate conditions favourable to high vector density. Importation of human cases to European regions with high density of suitable arthropod vectors (such as A. albopictus) may trigger autochthonous outbreaks. The clinical signs of CHIKV infection include non-specific flu-like symptoms, and a characteristic rash accompanied by joint pain that may last for a long time after the resolution of the infection. The death rate is not particularly high, but excess mortality has been observed in concomitance with large CHIKV outbreaks. Deregulation of innate defense mechanisms, such as cytokine inflammatory response, may participate in the main clinical signs of CHIKV infection, and the establishment of persistent (chronic) disease. There is no specific therapy, and prevention is the main countermeasure. Prevention is based on insect control and in avoiding mosquito bites in endemic countries. Diagnosis is based on the detection of virus by molecular methods or by virus culture on the first days of infection, and by detection of an immune response in later stages. CHIKV infection must be suspected in patients with compatible clinical symptoms returning from epidemic/endemic areas. Differential diagnosis should take into account the cross-reactivity with other viruses from the same antigenic complex (i.e. O'nyong-nyong virus).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aedes / virology*
  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Alphavirus Infections* / diagnosis
  • Alphavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Alphavirus Infections* / prevention & control
  • Alphavirus Infections* / transmission
  • Animals
  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Chikungunya Fever
  • Chikungunya virus / genetics
  • Chikungunya virus / immunology
  • Chikungunya virus / physiology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Genotype
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Insect Vectors / virology*
  • Phylogeny