How Malaria parasites could help beat symptoms of Chikungunya

Singapore scientists’ discovery could hold the key to novel treatments for the symptoms of mosquito-borne diseases

27 SEPTEMBER 2018, Singapore – Researchers from A*STAR’s Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) have discovered that the Plasmodium parasite responsible for Malaria triggers certain immune pathways that reduce the severity of symptoms caused by the Chikungunya virus. This could lead to novel treatments for the painful symptoms of Chikungunya and similar viruses transmitted by vectors such as mosquitoes.

The research team was led by Professor Lisa Ng and Professor Laurent Rénia from A*STAR’s SIgN, and their discovery was published in Nature Communications on 25 September 2018. Chikungunya is known to cause fever and severe joint pain, and the pain may last for weeks or even months. Currently there is no specific drug treatment against Chikungunya fever1.

In a previous research paper titled “Co-infection with Chikungunya virus alters trafficking of pathogenic CD8+ T cells into the brain and prevents Plasmodium-induced neuropathology”, a team led by Professor Laurent Rénia and Professor Lisa Ng found that the Chikungunya virus triggers certain immune pathways that protects against deadly symptoms of Malaria, including brain damage. Using this information in the present study, researchers were able to identify the specific inflammatory pathways that afford protection from the symptoms of Chikungunya virus, such as joint swelling.

“This is particularly exciting because it opens up potential new avenues for us to treat and control the manifestations of these diseases,” said Professor Lisa Ng, Senior Principal Investigator at A*STAR’s SIgN. “In addition to this, we also discovered that certain FDA approved drugs could possibly be repurposed to trigger these pathways, allowing us greater flexibility when treating the symptoms of mosquito-borne diseases,” she added.

Mosquito-borne diseases are especially prevalent in tropical climates. It is therefore essential that researchers remain vigilant and stay on top of the developments not just in the region, but all over the world. To do so, collaboration and information sharing is of paramount importance.

For reasons such as these, Singapore was recently inducted as the newest centre of excellence of the Global Virus Network, a cluster of 42 global centres with the foremost experts in many areas of virus-causing disease in humans. The aim of GVN is to strengthen medical research and response to current viral causes of human disease.

1 World Health Organization Fact Sheet on Chikungunya Fever   df?ua=1


A*STAR, represented by Professor Lisa Ng, along with several other organisations form the GVN-Singapore Center of Excellence.


Notes to Editor:

The research findings described in this scientific news alert can be found in the Nature Communications paper titled “Plasmodium co-infection protects against chikungunya virus-induced pathologies”

Teck-Hui Teo1, Fok-Moon Lum 1, Khairunnisa Ghaffar1, Yi-Hao Chan1,2, Siti Naqiah Amrun1, Jeslin J.L. Tan1, Cheryl Y.P. Lee1,2, Tze-Kwang Chua1, Guillaume Carissimo 1, Wendy W.L. Lee1, Carla Claser1, Ravisankar Rajarethinam3, Laurent Rénia 1 & Lisa1,2,4

  1. Singapore Immunology Network, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), 8A Biomedical Grove, Immunos Building Level 4, Singapore 138648, Singapore.
  1. NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering, National University of Singapore, 28 Medical Drive, Centre for Life Sciences #05-01, Singapore 117456, Singapore.
  1. Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), 61 Biopolis Drive, Proteos, Singapore 138673, Singapore.
  1. Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, The Ronald Ross Building, 8 West Derby Street, Liverpool L69 7BE, UK.


These authors contributed equally: Laurent Rénia, Lisa F.P. Ng.

Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to Professor Lisa Ng ( or to Professor Laurent Rénia ( )

For media queries and clarifications, please contact:

Derrick Wong

Senior Officer, Corporate Communications

Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) Tel: +65 6517 7970


About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore's lead public sector agency that spearheads economic oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop innovative technology. Through open innovation, we collaborate with our partners in both the public and private sectors to benefit society.

As a Science and Technology Organisation, A*STAR bridges the gap between academia and industry. Our research creates economic growth and jobs for Singapore, and enhances lives by contributing to societal benefits such as improving outcomes in healthcare, urban living, and sustainability.

We play a key role in nurturing and developing a diversity of talent and leaders in our Agency and research entities, the wider research community and industry. A*STAR’s R&D activities span biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering, with research entities primarily located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis. For ongoing news, visit

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