New Study Identifies Possible Cause of Polio-Like Disease, Acute Flaccid Myelitis

According to a story from Science Daily, a team of scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) have identified the likely cause of a recent outbreak of an unusual disease called acute flaccid myelitis, which is known for its ability to cause paralysis and muscle weakness in children. The team used data from 11 patients that had been admitted to a hospital in the Phoenix, Arizona area for the disease.

About Acute Flaccid Myelitis

Acute flaccid myelitis is a condition that has only recently become known to science, and there is still a lot about it that remains unknown. This neurological disease can cause sudden symptoms, the most distinct of which is localized paralysis or weakness in the limbs. Scientists believe that this disease is most likely caused by infection of enterovirus 68. This virus is a close relative of poliovirus, which is the cause of polio and further suggests similarities between these illnesses. Symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis include acute limb paralysis, pain in the neck, limbs, or back, gray matter lesions (on MRI), difficulty breathing, and increased white blood cell count (suggesting inflammation or infection). There are currently no known treatments for acute flaccid myelitis; immune system altering drugs as well as other medications and procedures have been attempted, but none have seemed to have any effect. To learn more about acute flaccid myelitis, click here.

Prior Suspicions Confirmed

The findings from the study appear to confirm prior evidence that enterovirus D68 was the potential trigger for the condition. This virus was isolated in at least four the patients that the team looked at in the study. Cases of acute flaccid myelitis have continued to proliferate but there has not been much consensus about what the cause of the illness is. However, these findings may help resolve the debate.

It is critical that researchers gain an understanding of what is causing acute flaccid myelitis. Only then will it be possible for preventative steps, such as the development of a possible vaccine, to be taken. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a test developed to specifically test for the presence of enterovirus D68, so the team had to perform multiple tests in order to confirm its presence.

These findings represent another step towards unraveling the questions that still surround acute flaccid myelitis and developing effective approaches for treating the condition.

Check out the original study here.

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