From the Journals

Methotrexate relieves pain of Chikungunya-associated arthritis



Methotrexate is effective for the control of pain produced by arthritis associated with Chikungunya virus infection, according to a retrospective review of outcomes in a series of 50 patients.

Shown is the Chikungunya virus. CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith

Shown is the Chikungunya virus.

Joint pain and joint inflammation are commonly seen in the approximately 60% of patients who progress to the chronic phase of Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) infection, but there is no current consensus about how best to manage this complication, according to first author J. Kennedy Amaral, MD, of the department of infectious diseases and tropical medicine at the University of Minas Gerais (Brazil) and his colleagues, who published their experience in 50 patients in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology.

In this study, the primary measure of efficacy was pain control because not all CHIKV infection patients with rheumatic symptoms demonstrate synovitis on radiological examination. The 50 patients included in this series all had joint symptoms persisting more than 12 weeks after onset of CHIKV infection.

All but four of the patients in this series were women. The mean age was 61.9 years. At baseline, 28 had a musculoskeletal disorder defined by presence of arthralgia, 11 had rheumatoid arthritis, seven had fibromyalgia, and four had undifferentiated polyarthritis.

On a 0-10 visual analog scale (VAS), the mean pain score at baseline was 7.7. All patients were initiated on a 4-week course of 7.5 mg of methotrexate administered with folic acid.

Four patients not examined after 4 weeks of treatment were excluded from analysis. Of those evaluated, 80% had achieved at least a 2-point reduction in VAS score, which is considered clinically meaningful. The mean reduction in VAS pain score at 4 weeks was 4.3 points (P less than .0001 vs. baseline). In 12 patients, symptoms were resolved, and they were not further evaluated.

Those with inadequate pain control at 4 weeks were permitted to begin a higher dose of methotrexate and to receive additional therapies. At 8 weeks, the reduction in VAS pain score was only modestly increased, reaching a mean 4.5-point reduction from baseline on a mean methotrexate dose of 9.2 mg/week. A substantial proportion of patients had added other medications, such as prednisone and hydroxychloroquine.

Only 20 patients had joint swelling and frank arthritis at baseline. In these, the mean swollen joint count decreased from 7.15 to 2.89 (P less than .0001). There was no further reduction at 8 weeks.

Over the course of the study, there was no evidence that methotrexate exacerbated CHIKV infection.

The data were collected retrospectively, and there was no control group, but the findings inform practitioners of the “possible benefit of low-dose methotrexate to treat both arthralgia and arthritis” in chronic CHIK-associated arthritis, according to Dr. Amaral and his coinvestigators.

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Amaral JK et al. J Clin Rheumatol. 2018 Dec 5. doi: 10.1097/RHU.0000000000000943.

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