Enzootic circulation of chikungunya virus in East Africa: Serological evidence in non-human Kenyan primates

Gillian Eastwood, Rosemary C. Sang, Matilde Guerbois, Evans L.N. Taracha, Scott C. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a globally emerging pathogen causing debilitating arthralgia and fever in humans. First identified in Tanzania (1953), this mosquito-borne alphavirus received little further attention until a 2004 reemergence in Kenya from an unknown source. This outbreak subsequently spread to the Indian Ocean, with adaptation for transmission by a new urban vector. Under the hypothesis that sylvatic progenitor cycles of CHIKV exist in Kenya (as reported in West Africa, between non-human primates (NHPs) and arboreal Aedes spp. mosquitoes), we pursued evidence of enzootic transmission and human spillover events. We initially screened 252 archived NHP sera from Kenya using plaque reduction neutralization tests. Given an overall CHIKV seroprevalence of 13.1% (marginally higher in western Kenya), we sought more recent NHP samples during 2014 from sites in Kakamega County, sampling wild blue monkeys, olive baboons, and red-tailed monkeys (N = 33). We also sampled 34 yellow baboons near Kwale, coastal Kenya. Overall, CHIKV seropositivity in 2014 was 13.4% (9/67). Antibodies reactive against closely related o’nyong-nyong virus (ONNV) occurred; however, neutralization titers were too low to conclude ONNV exposure. Seroprevalence for the flavivirus dengue was also detected (28%), mostly near Kwale, suggesting possible spillback from humans to baboons. CHIKV antibodies in some juvenile and subadult NHPs suggested recent circulation. We conclude that CHIKV is circulating in western Kenya, despite the 2004 human outbreaks only being reported coastally. Further work to understand the enzootic ecology of CHIKV in east Africa is needed to identify sites of human spillover contact where urban transmission may be initiated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1399-1404
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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