Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) causes a severe and often persistent arthralgic disease that is occasionally fatal. A mosquito-borne virus, CHIKV exists in enzootic, nonhuman primate cycles in Africa, but occasionally emerges into urban, human cycles to cause major epidemics. Between 1920 and 1950, and again in 2005, CHIKV emerged into India and Southeast Asia, where major urban epidemics ensued. Unlike the early introduction, the 2005 emergence was accompanied by an adaptive mutation that allowed CHIKV to exploit a new epidemic vector, Aedes albopictus, via an A226V substitution in the E1 envelope glycoprotein. However, recent reverse genetic studies indicate that lineage-specific epistatic restrictions can prevent this from exerting its phenotype on mosquito infectivity. Thus, the A. albopictus-adaptive A226V substitution that is facilitating the dramatic geographic spread of CHIKV epidemics was prevented for decades or longer from being selected in most African enzootic strains as well as in the older endemic Asian lineage.
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