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J Infect Dis. 2011 Jul 1;204(1):115-23. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiq006. Epub 2010 Dec 14.

The acute phase of Chikungunya virus infection in humans is associated with strong innate immunity and T CD8 cell activation.

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Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville, BP769, Gabon.



Rapidly spreading to new regions, including the islands of the Indian Ocean, Central Africa, and Europe, Chikungunya fever is becoming a major problem of public health. Unlike other members of the alphavirus genus, immune responses to Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) have been poorly investigated.


We conducted a large ex vivo multiplex study of 50 cytokine, chemokine, and growth factor plasma profiles in 69 acutely infected patients from the Gabonese outbreak of 2007. We also assessed a phenotypic study of T lymphocyte responses during human acute CHIKV infection.


CHIKV infection in humans elicited strong innate immunity involving the production of numerous proinflammatory mediators. Interestingly, high levels of Interferon (IFN) α were consistently found. Production of interleukin (IL) 4, IL-10, and IFN-γ suggested the engagement of the adaptive immunity. This was confirmed by flow cytometry of circulating T lymphocytes that showed a CD8+ T lymphocyte response in the early stages of the disease, and a CD4+ T lymphocyte mediated response in the later stages. For the first time to our knowledge, we found evidence of CD95-mediated apoptosis of CD4+ T lymphocytes during the first 2 days after symptoms onset, ex vivo.


Together, our findings suggest that strong innate immunity is required to control CHIKV infection.

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