Why is the chikungunya test vital?

The chikungunya virus is transmitted to most victims through the bites of mosquitoes which are infected. The two mosquitoes that spread the chikungunya virus most predominantly are the Aedes albopictus and the Aedes aegypti. Human beings become the primary host of these viruses and cause havoc during epidemics. The disease can also spread through the blood-borne transmission. Several cases have been documented among the laboratory personnel who have handled infected blood or healthcare professional who was responsible for drawing blood.

However, there have been no reports of the virus being passed down through breast milk or infants acquiring chikungunya virus from their mothers through breastfeeding. Mothers can breastfeed their children even if they are affected by the virus. Thus the chikungunya test can help to detect if a person is infected with the chikungunya virus.

What would people infected with the virus see as symptoms?
The incubation period of the virus is about 3 to 7 days. The disease would be characterised by an acute onset of fever. The joint symptoms would be severe and debilitating, symmetric and bilateral. There could also be other symptoms like arthritis, conjunctivitis, myalgia, nausea or rash. The laboratory findings would also include elevated levels of creatinine and hepatic transaminases. The acute symptoms would resolve within about 10 days. There can be rare symptoms like retinitis, hepatitis, haemorrhage or others. The mortality rates are very low and do occur mostly in older adults.

The test is quite an ASO titre where the antibodies are located which are produced against the toxins, streptolysin O. These toxins are produced by the group A Streptococcus bacteria.

How does the laboratory tests proceed?
If individuals suffering from these symptoms are located, they are recommended to go through the chikungunya test. The diagnosis is made by testing the serum or blood plasma. The plasma is then tested for viral nucleic acids, immunoglobulin specific to the virus or the viruses themselves. The viral culture would detect the virus within the first 3 days. However, it is mandatory that the viruses be handled under biosafety level (or BSL) 3 conditions. This is because the disease can be communicated through the infected blood. The viral RNA of the disease can often be identified within the first 8 days. So, to rule out the diagnosis, it is important to collect convalescent-phase samples for those patients for whom the acute phase samples have tested negative.

How is the blood collected and when would the results be available?
The blood is collected in the speckled-top serum separators. The blood should be allowed to coagulate. The tubes are spun to separate the serum from the vlog. The blood should be allowed to coagulate. The serum is then drawn off into a clean tube before sending to the laboratory for results. The results normally become available within a span of 2 weeks at the most. If the initial results test positive, further confirmatory testing would be performed which delays the results.

It is important that the patients keep the random blood sugar level in a controlled limit so that there are no chances of additional damage to organs.

What are the things to be noted in the results?
The test is used to diagnose recent infections with the chikungunya virus. The antibodies that are tested for are the IgM and the IgG. They can usually be detected within a few days. The IgM can be detected within 3 to 4 days, while the IgG can be detected within 6 to 7 days of the onset of the infection. The IgM antibodies would remain detectable for 3 to 4 months. The IgG antibodies, however, would be available for years.

Thus the chikungunya test should be done in time to facilitate proper diagnosis.


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