Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Algal Virus Confirmed in Humans

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine recently confirmed that the algal virus chlorovirus ATCV-1 can affect humans (typically through accidental consumption).  The virus typically infects certain species of green algae found in lakes and rivers.  While the virus itself has been known to exist for a few years, it was unclear whether this virus actually played a role in human health or not.  In fact, some researchers had speculated that the virus only entered human tissue after death.

Interestingly, in a study measuring cognitive function, researchers found that those infected with ATCV-1 resulted in diminished visual processing ability (10% less) compared to uninfected individuals, even after controlling for SES and other confounding variables.  Specifically, those infected were found to have shorter attention spans and performed worse on tasks involving visual-motor tasks.

Further tests were performed on moths, who were injected with uninfected and infected green algae.  Again, those who received the infected algae reported reduced cognitive function - moths took 10% longer solving a maze and spent less time exploring new objects.  Furthermore, when analyzing gene activity of the hippocampus - a part of the brain essential for memory and location recognition - nearly 1300 genes showed altered activity.

While the findings report small differences in cognitive function, they are significant and could affect millions of people who work with water.


--Andrew Duong

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