Recent research has shown patients with newly presented, symmetric rheumatoid arthritis and those with the chikungunya virus (CHIKV) displayed similar characteristics in terms of presentation of immune cells and clinical features. It is known that the CHIKV virus causes inflammatory arthritis, which could last for months and even years, but little is known about its similarities with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
This study investigated a total of 10 patients who were almost simultaneously affected by both conditions during a trip to Haiti in 2014. Routine physical examinations coupled with laboratory tests (mostly flow cytometry and serological tests) by rheumatologists and specialists showed positive signs for seronegative RA when compared with American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism 2010 criteria for (seronegative) RA among 8 of these 10 patients. These patients were compared against 6 controls with newly diagnosed and untreated RA and 4 healthy counterparts. Serological tests showed that no patients had family history of rheumatologic disease and none were positive for rheumatoid factor or anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies.
Flowcytometric data also showed an increase in the activated and effector CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell population, along with Natural Killer (NK) cells and almost similar peripheral T cell phenotypes, as compared to healthy controls.
These serological and immunological findings indicate the need for rheumatologists to test patients with symmetric polyarthritis for CHIKV simultaneously. Also, travel history of patients need to be considered while examining a group of patients with the same conditions and symptoms.