Divulgação, Notícias

Mayaro: could a little-known disease become the next epidemic?

Dr. Pedro Vasconcelos emphasizes the need for solid investments for a deeper knowledge about the Mayaro virus epidemiology, including funding eventual studies on vaccine development and application


A vaccine against the Mayaro virus could take from five to 10 years to be available

First detected in 1954, the Mayaro fever, caused by the Mayaro virus (Togaviridae family, Alphavirus genus), has concerned health authorities across the Country. However, virologist Pedro Fernando da Costa Vasconcelos, director at the Evandro Chagas Institute, from the Health Ministry, does not believe the virus could be spreading or coming closer to Brazils most populous regions. According to him, there are no studies supporting this theory, and surveys must be conducted in order to define the infections real incidence and prevalence in Brazil, especially in the South and Southeast regions.

For the past 15 years, researchers have searched the Mayaro virus. Here in Brazil, we are assessing isolated viral and performing their sequencing, for phylogenetic and evolutionary analysis, as well as the Mayaros viral genotypes mapping, says the physician. He says the antibody prevalence is under 5%. What happens is that very few laboratories are capable of diagnosing the disease, he stresses. The disease presents symptoms similar to dengue and Chikungunya. To distinguish them, it is necessary to perform virological (viral isolation and real-time PCR) and serological (IgM-ELISA) tests, which are specific and not occurring cross reactions with dengue and minimum cross reaction with Chikungunya.

There is still no specific vaccine to combat the virus. However, studies in this direction are already in course. But time until we have an effective vaccine is unpredictable and none starting now should be available before 5 to 10 years, says the virologist adding that solid investments are needed to gather a deeper knowledge on the Mayaro virus epidemiology, including funding eventual studies on vaccine development and application. While this vaccine is not available, the population can prevent with individual protection measures: avoiding the woods in areas where recent cases have been reported and using insect repellent and using clothes that protect against the transmitters bites, which are the same for yellow fever, Haemagogus and Sabethes mosquitoes.

An article published on Scientific American, in late 2016, Marta Zaraska, a journalist specialized in science, stresses the similarities with the Chikungunya virus could explain why the Mayaro could become a generalized problem. Both viruses were initially transmitted by wild mosquitoes, infecting people in the Amazon region, but Chikungunya has adapted and is currently transmitted by urban mosquitoes, such as the Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. According to Zaraska, the same thing could happen to the Mayaro.

According to data from the Health Ministry, from December 2014 to January, 2016, 343 suspicious human cases of Mayaro fever were reported in 11 states across the North, Northeast and Middle-West regions, notably in Goiás State, followed by Pará and Tocantins. From these cases, 70 were confirmed and 29 discarded.…