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A mysterious polio-like illness that spiked in 2014, leading to paralysis in children across the U.S., may have divulged one of its secrets. Researchers have now found the most direct evidence to date of a viral culprit — the remnants of the immune cells that responded to the virus in the spinal fluid of patients.
Acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is a rare disease of the nervous system that mostly develops in children. Symptoms include loss of muscle tone and weakness in the arms and legs, decreased reflexes and, in the most extreme cases, paralysis. This year, there have been 22 confirmed cases of AFM in the U.S.; 236 AFM cases in 41 states were confirmed in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2014, the CDC has confirmed 590 cases.
Cause - AFM - Evidence - Points - Kind
The cause of AFM has long been debated, but increasing evidence points to some kind of enterovirus — a group of common viruses that typically invade the gastrointestinal tract and cause mild symptoms but can sometimes make their way to the central nervous system, causing more serious complications.
Still, almost all patients who have their spinal fluid tested do not test positive for an enterovirus.
People - Fact - Fluid - AFM - Patients
"People were hung up on the fact that enteroviruses were rarely detected in the cerebrospinal fluid of AFM patients," senior author Dr. Michael Wilson, an associate professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a statement. "They wanted to know how someone could get neurologic symptoms with no virus detectable in their central nervous system."
Perhaps the virus was no longer active in the body when those patients developed signs of AFM, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, who wasn't involved with the...
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