Potential drug to treat joint pain from Chikungunya and other mozzie infections

11 September 2017

Queensland researchers have discovered a potential treatment for the severe inflammation caused by infectious mosquito-borne diseases responsible for several outbreaks worldwide in the past decade.

The researchers, led by Professor Suresh Mahalingam at Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics on the Gold Coast and including Professor Matt Cooper from The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) are developing ways to treat debilitating diseases caused by mosquito-borne viruses such as Chikungunya and Ross River fever.

Professor Cooper said the team identified a molecule that inhibited the immune system and reduced inflammation after infection with Chikungunya and Ross River fever. 

“These diseases are caused by viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, and are spreading as our climate changes.  Unfortunately for the billions of people living in tropical and semi-tropical regions, there are no treatments or vaccines,” Professor Cooper said.

“Chikungunya virus triggers debilitating joint inflammation and severe pain that can persist for months or even years following the initial infection.

“By precisely modulating how our immune system responds to infection, we hope to develop new therapies that can be used to treat people with these serious diseases.”

The team, which also included Dr Ali Zaid from the Griffith Institute for Glycomics, found that an immune protein complex known as the NLRP3 inflammasome became activated in patients suffering acute signs of Chikungunya virus.

“When we looked at models of Chikungunya infection, we found that NLRP3 was activated, which triggered a cascade of harmful inflammation, leading to severe joint inflammation and bone damage,” said Dr Zaid.

“So we used a molecule from Dr. Cooper’s lab that precisely blocks activation of NLRP3, and we could dampen down Chikungunya inflammation, with reduced bone loss and muscle inflammation.

“The same effects were seen with Ross River virus. Targeting the inflammasome using this kind of small molecule inhibitor could be a completely new way to treat patients suffering from acute Chikungunya or Ross River virus disease during outbreaks.”

The findings were published in scientific journal Nature Microbiology and can be accessed by subscribers at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-017-0015-4  

Media contact: IMB Communications - +61 7 3346 2134, 0418 575 247, communications@imb.uq.edu.au

 

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