New strain of Chikun­gunya in Brazil could spur North Amer­i­can out­break

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

BAHIA, Brazil: The Chikun­gunya out­break, which con­tin­ues to af­fect thou­sands of Caribbean res­i­dents since it first ap­peared in St. Martin last year, has been rel­a­tively self­lim­it­ing in the United States due to the fact that the cur­rent strain only spreads through the Aedes egypti mos­quito vec­tor, which is un­com­mon on the US East­ern seaboard.

But re­cent di­ag­noses of a new vi­ral strain in Brazil may turn the cur­rent hemi­spheric spread of the crip­pling dis­ease on its head. The strain – which is preva­lent in some African states and which has been the cause of sev­eral out­breaks in South-east Asian coun­tries – read­ily in­fects the Aedes al­bopic­tus mos­quito, a hardier species which is common along the US East Coast, and which is adapted to colder cli­mates.

Brazil has recorded over 200 cases of Chikun­gunya – pre­dom­i­nantly in the coun­try’s east-coast Bahia state – but ac­cord­ing to Kansas State Univer­sity vi­rol­o­gist Stephen Higgs, the African strain in Brazil has not yet de­vel­oped the type of dan­ger­ous mu­ta­tions ob­served in South-east Asia.

With the Brazil­ian sum­mer be­gin­ning next month, in­creased rains may cre­ate more favourable breed­ing con­di­tions for mos­qui­toes and fa­cil­i­tate the spread of the new strain, but lo­cal trans­mis­sion of any im­ported cases in the US may be mit­i­gated by the ap­proach­ing win­ter months in North Amer­ica.

Should the new strain be­come es­tab­lished in the United States, how­ever, the sig­nif­i­cant spread of the Aedes al­bopic­tus poses risks for a US East Coast re­play of the Caribbean’s cur­rent Chikun­gunya out­break.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.