Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-borne alphavirus which causes fever, rash and polyarthralgia. CHIKV has expanded its circulating regions to the Indian Ocean islands, Europe, Americas and Southeast Asia. Two CHIKV lineages, the ASIAN and ECSA are circulating in Malaysia. In 2009, a CHIKV strain with a 76 amino acid (aa) duplication in its nsP3 hypervariable domain (HVD), identified as CHIKvASIAN09MUM-Dup+ was isolated from a patient co-infected with DENV-2. Indels and duplication have been found in many other alphaviruses, and suggested to play a role in the survivality of the viruses.

We aim to compare and relate the replication kinetics and virulency of CHIKvASIAN09MUM-Dup+ with the wild-type Asian and ECSA strains.

Genotypic analysis was conducted on three CHIKV strains in Malaysia, the CHIKvASIAN06UM-Dup-, CHIKvECSA08UM-Dup- and CHIKvASIAN09MUM-Dup+. We found that CHIKvASIAN09MUM-Dup+ has significant low replication rates in Vero, C6/36 and Rhabdosarcoma cells as compared to the wild-type strains. The highest titers were reached by CHIKvASIAN09MUM-Dup+ in all cells are 6.5 to 6.75 log10 TCID50/mL, which is 100 fold lower compared to the wild-type strains.

The significantly low replication rate of Dup+ strain in all the cells, maybe suggestive to be due to co-infection and co-existence with DENV, where the aa duplication may play a role in overcoming competitive suppression. This preliminary finding agrees with reported events, where alphaviruses use insertion, deletion and duplication of amino acid in nsP3 HVD as strategies to influence replication in host, viral virulency, pathogenesis and survivality for evolution adaptation.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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