Study: New Strain Of Polio-Like Virus Leading To Paralysis In Children

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — A new strain of a polio-like virus may be leading to paralysis in children.

LiveScience reports more than 100 children in 34 states mysteriously developed muscle weakness or paralysis in their arms or legs. This condition is known as acute flaccid myelitis, but researchers previously linked a virus called enterovirus D68 with some of the cases.

Only 20 percent of children with paralysis, though, tested positive for EV-D68, and it wasn’t clear if that virus was behind the child’s paralysis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study in October 2014 of a 6-year-old girl who was examined at the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital for “acute onset of progressive right upper extremity weakness.” The little girl was previously healthy before falling ill.

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“Within the 2 weeks before the patient’s presentation to the hospital, she and her family members had been ill with a mild cough and rhinorrhea; 4 days before presentation, the patient had experienced low-grade fever (100.4° F), frontal headache, fatigue, and intermittent pain in the right ear and right axilla. The fever lasted only 1 day; the cough, fatigue, and headache improved over the next 2 days, but the patient continued to report right arm pain. On the day before seeking care, her parents observed that she had a right shoulder droop and difficulty using her right hand. No associated visual or mental status changes; difficulty with speech, swallowing, or respiration; or bowel/bladder disturbance were noted,” the study reads. “Physical examination detected right upper extremity weakness; absent right biceps, triceps, and brachioradialis deep tendon reflexes; and a diminished right patellar reflex. Muscle strength was more severely affected in the proximal than in the distal right upper extremity. Sensation was intact. A diffuse papular rash was noted on the patient’s back.”

The study linked the girl’s condition to a virus known as enterovirus C105. It was first detected in patients from Peru and the Republic of Congo in 2010.

Enterovirus C species includes the polioviruses.

“We probably shouldn’t be quite so fast to jump to enterovirus D68 as the cause of these cases,” Dr. Ronald Turner, professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, told LiveScience.

This outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis affected 118 children in the United States in the summer of 2014. The report found that 88 of those children “noted that most had experienced a preceding respiratory illness, similar to that described by the patient reported here.”

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EV-D68 was only detected in eight of 41 of the flaccid myelitis patients tested.

“You can have a virus in your respiratory tract that’s not doing anything to your nervous system,” Turner told LiveScience.

The study concludes: “Although cases of flaccid paralysis associated with isolation of EV-D68 from spinal fluid have been reported, the role of EV-D68 in the current outbreak remains to be determined. As the results from this case indicate, it is possible that other viral pathogens with neurovirulence may be contributing to the outbreak.”

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