Despite the Continued Appearance of Cases, Researchers Still Don’t Know Much About Acute Flaccid Myelitis

According to a story from AJC, three year old Reid Peteet is one of over 550 kids that have been diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis since 2014. 2018 saw a major increase with 228 cases being identified. This distressing condition can cause paralysis and mostly affects children, but unfortunately researchers still don’t understand the nature of acute flaccid myelitis very well. However, this will hopefully change soon.

About Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)

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 major effect. To learn more about acute flaccid myelitis, click here.

Scientists and Families Struggle

Scientists are trying to learn as much as they can by closely monitoring the children that are diagnosed. There have currently been just four cases to appear in 2019, but that doesn’t mean that 2019 couldn’t be a another big year. Most cases are diagnosed in either late summer or the fall, another strange aspect of acute flaccid myelitis that is still being figured out. 

Reid first got sick in the fall of 2016, and his mother Jennifer quit her job in order to take care of him.

“No one has a clue what Reid’s future will be like. It’s totally devastating.” – Jennifer

Unfortunately, she is right in that the long term future for patients is very uncertain. Reid and other patients could very likely experience some degree of paralysis and disability for the rest of their lives.

Scientists understand that the need for a therapy is very urgent, but before an effective one can be developed, more needs to be understood about the origins of this unusual and devastating pediatric illness.


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