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NUS medical school researchers discover new approach to fighting chikungunya

Published on Oct 9, 2012 5:04 PM

A TEAM of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have discovered a new approach to fighting chikungunya, a viral disease which causes intense pain in the joints.

The researche2rs successfully identified a genetic sequence - called "small hairpin RNA" for the shape of the sequence - which stops the chikungunya virus from replicating before going on to destroy the virus.

This method, which brings the fight against the virus down to the genetic level, is one way in which gene silencing is carried out. Gene silencing stops the gene from "talking" and is an upcoming field in medical technology, explained principal investigator Justin Chu on Tuesday. He is an assistant professor with the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

Chikungunya, which is spread by the Aedes mosquito, currently has no vaccine and no cure. While it is only fatal in patients with weak immune systems, it can cause joint pain which can persist for months and even years. Over 1,000 cases were recorded in Singapore between 2008 and 2010. Nine cases were recorded from last year to this year, said Dr Chu.

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