More people testing positive for chikungunya virus in the U.S., study finds

Sept. 10, 2014

A growing number of patients in the United States are being tested, and are testing positive, for the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, according to a study presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) in Washington, DC. The study was conducted by scientists from Focus Diagnostics, a business of Quest Diagnostics. Focus Diagnostics is presently the only commercial clinical laboratory in the United States that provides antibody and molecular testing for chikungunya.

“Chikungunya is not a major health threat in the United States, and the risk of contracting the virus at this time is exceedingly small unless traveling to an area of an active outbreak without proper mosquito prevention,” says lead author Hollis Batterman, MD, medical director, Focus Diagnostics. “Our research provides insights into the strengths and limitations of clinical diagnostics to diagnose the infection. With these insights, public health authorities and the medical community will be better positioned to reliably identify infected patients, provide appropriate supportive care, and differentiate chikungunya from other infections, such as dengue fever, that can have a similar clinical presentation.”

Long endemic in parts of Asia and Africa, the chikungunya virus was found this year in the Western Hemisphere. Locally acquired cases were identified in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in April 2014 and in Florida in July 2014. As of September 2, 2014, 758 chikungunya cases have been reported in the U.S.

Clinical laboratory testing for the virus may involve molecular reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which identifies the RNA of the virus, and immunoassays, which assess blood-serum levels of the antibodies Immunoglobulin M and G (IgM and IgG). Focus Diagnostics’ lab-developed tests were validated and are provided through the company’s clinical laboratory in Cypress, CA. Read more about Focus’s tests for vector-borne diseases.

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