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UA researchers to study treatment for Chikungunya

Posted at 4:34 PM, Sep 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-25 19:34:15-04

Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson are hoping to be the first to discover a treatment for Chikungunya,   a mosquito-borne virus that has killed thousands around the world.

For years scientists have had no luck discovering a treatment for Chikungunya,  a mosquito-borne virus that has proven deadly. "This is disease where most people that are bitten by mosquito will actually get sick and the problem is that they will get sick for a very long period of time," said Janko Nikolich-Žugich, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Immunobiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson. According to Nikolich-Žugich, the virus has generally been  prevalent in Europe and the middle east. However, in 2014, 12 cases of locally acquired Chikungunya were reported in Florida, and more than 4,000 were reported in the Caribbean, Nikolich-Žugich said. 

Nikolich-Žugich says the potential for the mosquito-borne virus to hop continents and make its way here to Southern Arizona is very high, especially now as we near the end of monsoon. "We kind of dodged a bullet, we are getting ready should that happen again," he explained.  Now, using a $1.5 million federal grant from the National Institute on Aging, Nikolich-Žugich and a group of researchers at UA are studying how Chikungunya causes devastating effects in older adults, in hopes to improve treatment options.He hopes the study will help discover a way to stop the long chronic phase of the disease. "we {will} do away with a joint pathology and all of the arthritis and painful joints are no longer so painful," Nikolich-Žugich explained.

Nikolich-Žugich says the study will be completed and turned into treatment in the next five years. For now, it's important to prevent the disease. He recommends people protect themselves by wearing long sleeves if they see mosquitoes nearby and always have mosquito spray in their home.