Broad and long-lasting immune protection against various Chikungunya genotypes demonstrated by participants in a cross-sectional study in a Cambodian rural community
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an alphavirus circulating worldwide. Its presence in Asia has been reported since the 1950s, constituting the Asian genotype. Since 2005, strains from the Eastern, Central, and Southern African (ECSA) genotype have caused several outbreaks across Asia. Viruses from the ECSA genotype were also detected in Cambodia in late 2011 and led to an outbreak in a rural community in 2012. A former investigation from 2012 found a higher risk of infection in people younger than 40 years, suggesting a pre-existing herd immunity in the older Cambodian population due to infection with an Asian genotype. In 2016, we collected serum from equivalent numbers of individuals born before 1975 and born after 1980 that were also part of the 2012 study. We analyzed the 154 serum samples from 2016 for neutralization against the Cambodian ECSA isolate and three strains belonging to the Asian genotype. This experiment revealed that 22.5% (18/80) of the younger study participants had no CHIKV antibodies, whereas 5.4% (4/74) of the older population remained naive. Study participants infected during the ECSA outbreak had twofold neutralizing titers against the ECSA and the most ancient Asian genotype virus (Thailand 1958) compared to the other two Asian genotype viruses. The neutralization data also support the older population’s exposure to an Asian genotype virus during the 1960s. The observed cross-reactivity confirms that the investigated CHIKV strains belong to a single serotype despite the emergence of novel ECSA genotype viruses and supports the importance of the development of a Chikungunya vaccine.