‘Polio-like’ enterovirus could be behind paralysis of over 100 children – study

Thursday, April 2, 2015
By Paul Martin

April 02, 2015

More than 100 children in 34 states developed polio-like paralysis in an arm or a leg since a respiratory outbreak last August. A study published in The Lancet medical journal said a strain of enterovirus D68 is probably the leading culprit.

Between August and October 2014, reports began to surface of an increasing number of children admitted to hospitals in a number of states, all involving a respiratory illness with neurological complications. In the end, as many as 115 children from 34 states were infected. The illness was identified as being caused by enterovirus D68, but the neurological complaints leading to partial paralysis was new.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco used genetic sequences obtained from the virus, which were cultured from 25 children with limb paralysis in Colorado and California between November 2013 and October 2014. They found the viruses were genetically very similar, sharing mutations founded in the polio virus genome, but they also identified a novel strain of enterovirus D68 which they called B1 and identified as emerging four years ago.

“I don’t think it’s coincidental that it’s around the time the first cases were described,” said Dr. Charles Chiu, the study’s senior author, to the New York Times.

The research group was able to identify the strain through a blood sample taken from a 6-year-old boy who had been taken to the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles complaining of trouble moving his left leg.

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