Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mystery Myelitis

Many children in the United States were infected by enterovirus-68 last year, the majority of which displayed a slightly more severe set of common cold symptoms including runny nose, sneezing, and coughing. Unfortunately, more than 100 of these children were also plagued by acute flaccid myelitis, leaving one or more of their limbs unable to function. Acute is in the name of the condition, suggesting the potential of recovery; however, while the conditions of some are slowly improving with physical therapy, there have been little to no cases in which the child has completely recovered. 

At this point, researchers and epidemiologists are trying to elucidate the underlying similarities between children afflicted with the myelitis in order to see what is causing this debilitating condition. Based on MRI analysis, the condition looks extremely similar to polio; there is damage to a distinct region on the spinal cord, conferring a similar clinical syndrome. Because enterovirus-68 and poliovirus are within the same family (picornaviridae) and share many biological and morphological characteristics, an enterovirus-68 induced paralysis seems very plausible. But while there appears to be a striking epidemiological correlation between enterovirus-68 and the recent cases of acute flaccid myelitis in support of this, there has been no tangible biological link found implicating the virus. It was not found in the blood, spinal fluid, nor stool of affected individuals. Nevertheless, many researchers are determined to prove the virus’ role in the paralytic condition. In addition, the CDC is preparing a long-term study for the 112 infected children in order to track the progression of the disease and the potential for treatment. 

-        Eddie Irvine

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