Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report that a mosquito-borne virus now present in the Caribbean and Central and South America and which has caused isolated infections in Florida often causes joint pain and swelling similar to that seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Misdiagnosis of the viral infection may also be occurring, since blood tests of patients with the Chikungunya virus and those with RA can produce similar results. The findings are reported in the January issue of Arthritis and Rheumatology.
The global spread of the Chikungunya virus suggests that the disease is likely to be a diagnostic challenge in the years ahead. RA is typically treated with drugs that suppress the immune system, but it’s not yet known whether that approach will help or harm patients with Chikungunya virus. It is therefore important that clinicians obtain detailed travel and medical histories from patients being evaluated for RA. This information could help distinguish between the 2 conditions.
Read a news story about the findings and recommendations here.