Endemic in areas of Africa, southeast Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is an often-fatal viral illness which can cause severe issues. Researchers estimate that this zoonotic illness is fatal in around 10-50% of cases. This high mortality rate results, in part, because there are no vaccinations or therapeutic options available for this illness. Medical XPress explains that this drove Swedish researchers from the Karolinska Istitutet to learn more about Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. Through their studies, the researchers hoped to not only learn more about this disease, but more about how it could be treated.
To begin, researchers evaluated the manner of infection. They sourced blood samples from individuals infected with Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, as well as from those who had recovered from this disease. Through different tests, they discovered that the virus reproduces using energy metabolism pathways in the body.
Next, the researchers wanted to learn whether blocking or inhibiting certain pathways could prevent the virus from reproducing. Both the glutaminolysis and glycolysis pathways were blocked. Through this, the virus was unable to reproduce at a high rate.
Admittedly, more research is needed – both in non-human models of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, as well as, in the future, in humans. However, these findings do suggest a potential path forward for treating this hazardous and impactful viral illness.
If you’re interested in the full study data and findings, you may read more in eLife.
What is Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever?
First described in Crimea in 1944 and the Congo in 1956, the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever that is often spread by ticks. However, shares the World Health Organization (WHO), this virus can also be spread through exposure to infected animal tissue. Symptoms typically appear within 1-6 days following infection. In early stages of the infection, symptoms include:
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Neck pain and stiffness, as well as a headache
- Sore throat
- Muscle and joint pain
- Petechiae on the palate
- Eye soreness and redness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes)
- Agitation and confusion
As the condition progresses (days 2-4), patients often experience symptoms such as:
- Extreme fatigue, sleepiness, depression, and general malaise
- Upper-right abdominal pain
- Enlarged liver and lymph nodes
- Fast heart rate
- Petechiae that spread into larger rashes
- Severe bruising and bleeding
- Uncontrolled bleeding at the site of infection
- Liver, kidney, or pulmonary failure
For those who recover from Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, the recovery usually begins on days 9-10 of the illness. Alternately, for those whom the disease is fatal, death usually occurs within 2 weeks following infection.