Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) infection is a common cause of febrile arthritis. The most common manifestations of acute infection are fever, symmetrical polyarthralgias or polyarthritis, myalgias, and maculopapular rash. Up to 80% of patients may develop musculoskeletal manifestations that persist longer than 3 months, causing impairment in their quality of life. The most common chronic manifestations are persistent or relapsing-remitting polyarthralgias, polyarthritis, and myalgias. Fingers, wrists, knees, ankles, and toes are the most frequently involved, but proximal joints and axial involvement can occur in the chronic stage. Chronic manifestations of CHIKV infection may resemble those of some autoimmune connective tissue diseases. Furthermore, CHIKV infection can cause cryoglobulinemia and may induce rheumatoid arthritis and seronegative spondyloarthropathies in genetically susceptible individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend acetaminophen and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the acute rheumatic manifestations of CHIKV infection. However, some studies suggest that low-dose corticosteroids for about 1-2 months (depending on clinical course) are beneficial in relieving acute rheumatic symptoms. Conversely, hydroxychloroquine in combination with corticosteroids or other disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) has been successful in treating chronic rheumatic manifestations. Methotrexate and sulfasalazine (alone or in combination) have also been effective for chronic CHIKV arthritis. Patients with CHIKV infection should be closely monitored to identify those with chronic arthritis who would benefit from a rheumatologic evaluation and early treatment with DMARDs.
Keywords: Arthritis; Chikungunya virus; Corticosteroids; Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs; Treatment.