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Chikungunya can infect central nervous system and impair cognitive, motor functions

Publicado em 05 novembro 2020

A study conducted by an international team of researchers with FAPESP's support shows that infection by chikungunya virus can produce even more severe manifestations than the typical symptoms of the disease, such as acute fever, headache, rash, and intense joint and muscle pain.

The analysis was performed by 38 researchers affiliated with the Federal University of Ceará (UFC), the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Ministry of Health in Brazil, and with Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

Their main discovery was that chikungunya can infect the central nervous system and impair cognitive and motor functions.

"The study produced important new knowledge about the disease and the virus. We not only confirmed that the virus can infect the central nervous system but also found the disease to be more deadly for young adults, rather than children and the elderly as is usually predicted in outbreaks of the disease," said William Marciel de Souza , co-author of an article on the study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Souza is a researcher at the University of São Paulo's Ribeirão Preto Medical School (FMRP-USP). "The study also showed that during the acute or subacute phase of the disease [20-90 days after infection] patients with diabetes appear to die seven times more frequently than non-diabetics," he said.

The study was conducted under the auspices of the Brazil-UK Center for Arbovirus Discovery, Diagnosis, Genomics and Epidemiology (CADDE). It also derived from Souza's postdoctoral research, part of which he pursued at Oxford University in the UK with FAPESP's support via a Research Internship Abroad. Researchers affiliated with several different institutions collaborated on the project, which was also supported by Brazil's National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).

Worst outbreak in the Americas

The study was based on a retrospective analysis of clinical and epidemiological data as well as blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and tissue samples from patients who died during the 2017 outbreak in the state of Ceará, Brazil, the worst chikungunya outbreak in the Americas. Ceará notified 194 chikungunya-related deaths and 105,229 suspected cases (1,166 per 100,000 inhabitants)... 

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