Little is known about the immunopathogenesis of Chikungunya virus. Circulating levels of immune mediators and growth factors were analyzed from patients infected during the first Singaporean Chikungunya fever outbreak in early 2008 to establish biomarkers associated with infection and/or disease severity.
Adult patients with laboratory-confirmed Chikungunya fever infection, who were referred to the Communicable Disease Centre/Tan Tock Seng Hospital during the period from January to February 2008, were included in this retrospective study. Plasma fractions were analyzed using a multiplex-microbead immunoassay. Among the patients, the most common clinical features were fever (100%), arthralgia (90%), rash (50%) and conjunctivitis (40%). Profiles of 30 cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors were able to discriminate the clinical forms of Chikungunya from healthy controls, with patients classified as non-severe and severe disease. Levels of 8 plasma cytokines and 4 growth factors were significantly elevated. Statistical analysis showed that an increase in IL-1β, IL-6 and a decrease in RANTES were associated with disease severity.
This is the first comprehensive report on the production of cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors during acute Chikungunya virus infection. Using these biomarkers, we were able to distinguish between mild disease and more severe forms of Chikungunya fever, thus enabling the identification of patients with poor prognosis and monitoring of the disease.