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How chikungunya virus causes arthritis pain decoded

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Scientists have identified the molecular handle that grabs to get inside cells, an advance that could lead to ways to prevent or treat caused by the

The handle, or receptor, is located on cells that build cartilage, muscle and bone. Joints are filled with such cells, which helps explain patients' painful symptoms, according to the findings published in

By creating decoy handles, the researchers at of Medicine in the US showed that they could reduce and signs of

"We now know how gets into cells, and we may have found a way to block the infection," said Michael S Diamond, a at of Medicine.

"If the cannot get into the cell, it is unable to replicate and cause and disease," Diamond said.

There are no specific treatments or vaccines for chikungunya and related viruses, known as arthritogenic alphaviruses, researchers said.

Doctors simply recommend rest, fluids and over-the-counter relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, they said.

Diamond and colleagues identified the protein on cells that chikungunya latches onto.

The protein is called Mxra8, and it is needed for chikungunya to invade both human and mouse cells, the researchers found.

Additional experiments showed that not just chikungunya but its arthritis-causing relatives - Mayaro, Ross River, O'nyongnyong and viruses - require the protein to get into cells.

Since chikungunya uses Mxra8 protein as a handle to open a door into cells, the researchers tested whether preventing the virus from grabbing that handle could reduce

They deluged the virus with decoy handles, reasoning that chikungunya would grab the decoy and be locked out of cells.

Only the few individual viruses that lucked onto a true handle could infect cells, so the rate - and signs of - would fall, researchers said.

A day after infection, the level of virus in the mice's ankles and calf muscles was between tenfold and a hundredfold lower in the animals that had been treated with Mxra8 proteins or blocking than those that received placebo, and the numbers remained lower over the next two days.

In addition, three days after treatment, the mice that had received the protein exhibited much less swelling in their ankles than those that received the placebo.

The results suggest that a compound that blocks the virus from attaching to Mxra8 on the surface of cells could prevent or reduce

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, May 18 2018. 16:05 IST