Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a positive-sense RNA virus transmitted by Aedes
mosquitoes. CHIKV is a reemerging Alphavirus that causes acute febrile illness and severe and debilitating polyarthralgia of the peripheral joints. Huge epidemics and the rapid spread of CHIKV seen in India and the Indian Ocean region established CHIKV as a global health concern. This concern was further solidified by the recent incursion of the virus into the Western hemisphere, a region without pre-existing immunity. Nonhuman primates (NHPs) serve as excellent animal models for understanding CHIKV pathogenesis and pre-clinical assessment of vaccines and therapeutics. NHPs present advantages over rodent models because they are a natural amplification host for CHIKV and they share significant genetic and physiological homology with humans. CHIKV infection in NHPs results in acute fever, rash, viremia and production of type I interferon. NHPs develop CHIKV-specific B and T-cells, generating neutralizing antibodies and CHIKV-specific CD4+
T-cells. CHIKV establishes a persistent infection in NHPs, particularly in cynomolgus macaques, because infectious virus could be recovered from spleen, liver, and muscle as late as 44 days post infection. NHPs are valuable models that are useful in preclinical testing of vaccines and therapeutics and uncovering the details of CHIKV pathogenesis.
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