24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
Fax: (361)578-5500

Child & Adolescent Development: Overview
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest News
Are Antibiotics a Recipe for Obesity in Childhood?This Year's Flu Season Taking Deadly Aim at KidsWhy Are Fewer U.S. Kids Going to Pediatricians?Severe Deprivation in Childhood Has Lasting Impact on Brain SizeHealth Tip: What Your Child Can do About BullyingWildfires Send Kids to ERs for Breathing ProblemsTV Can Be a Good Influence on Kids' Eating HabitsWould Tighter Swimming Rules at Public Beaches, Lakes and Rivers Save Lives?U.S. Doctors Often Test, Treat Kids UnnecessarilyHealth Tip: Safety Steps if Your Child is Home AloneHealth Tip: Help Your Child Safely Lose WeightAmericans Need to Tackle Youth Obesity: U.S. Task ForceGenes, Family Are Key Predictors of School SuccessKids' 'Microbiome' May Play Key Role in AsthmaA Puppy in Santa's Sack? Probably Not, Say ParentsMore Kids, Teens Landing in ERs After Opioid OverdosesGetting Active Helps Kids' Hearts, Even in the ObeseWhen Does Your Child's Flu Merit an ER Visit?Health Tip: Managing Hearing Loss in ChildrenHealth Tip: Is My Child Too Sick to Go to School?Differences Found in Brains of Kids Born to Depressed ParentsSecondhand Smoke Starts Kids on Path to Heart Disease: StudyHealth Tip: Choosing a PediatricianMany Kids Traveling Overseas Aren't Vaccinated Against MeaslesCould Obesity Alter a Child's Brain Structure?Dramatic Rise in Eye Injuries From BB and Paintball GunsTwo-Thirds of Child Abuse Survivors Do Well as AdultsAHA News: Serious Heart Defects Increase Heart Failure Risk in Early AdulthoodMore U.S. Kids Are Shunning Sweetened DrinksAs Disease Outbreaks Tied to 'Anti-Vaxxers' Rise, States Take Action'Don't Give Up:' Parents' Intuition Spots a Rare Illness Before Doctors DoFDA Approves First Contact Lens That Slows Myopia ProgressionStereotypes About Girls and Math Don't Add Up, Scans ShowStudies Confirm HPV Shot Is SafeThese Sports Are Most Likely to Send Young Americans to the ERNature Nurtures KidsClimate Change Will Hurt Kids Most, Report WarnsTough Childhoods Can Leave a Lifetime of Harm, Experts SayMany U.S. Parents Can't Find a Psychiatrist to Help Their ChildAnti-Vaxxers Find Ways Around States' 'Personal Exemption' BansMake a Plan for Gardening Next Spring With Your KidsCheck Those Halloween Treats So They're Safe to EatFast-Food Outlet in Neighborhood Could Mean Heavier Kids: StudyAntihistamines Linked to Delayed Care for Severe Allergic Reaction: StudyPain Twice as Common for Kids With Autism: StudyPediatricians' Group Calls for More Research on Artificial SweetenersExperts Support Weight-Loss Surgery for Very Obese KidsHalloween Can Be Frightful for Kids With Allergies, AsthmaLawn Mowers May Be Even More Dangerous for Rural KidsHow Young Is Too Young to Leave Kids Home Alone?
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses
Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)
Child Development & Parenting: Early (3-7)

Scientists Spot Signs of Virus Behind Disease Paralyzing Kids

HealthDay News
by By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Oct 21st 2019

new article illustration

MONDAY, Oct. 21, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- A new antibody test appears to have honed in on the most likely cause of a mysterious polio-like disease that regularly sweeps through the United States.

The new test detected antibodies for two types of enteroviruses in the spinal fluid of dozens of patients diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a disease that causes potentially permanent and sometimes life-threatening paralysis in young children.

The two viruses, EV-D68 and EV-A71, previously had been found in cases of AFM, but this study provides the clearest evidence to date that the disease is caused by an enterovirus, researchers said.

"It certainly lays the groundwork for further testing so we can be confident that most, if not all, of AFM cases are caused by enteroviruses," said lead researcher Dr. Ryan Schubert, a clinical fellow with the University of California, San Francisco's (UCSF) department of neurology.

This explanation would make sense, since polio itself belongs to the family of enteroviruses.

AFM usually causes weakness in the arms and legs, but in rare cases can cause life-threatening respiratory failure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

AFM has tended to strike in the United States every other year, with 236 cases reported in 41 states in 2018, the CDC said.

The first wave of AFM hit in 2014, when 120 children across 34 states were stricken with mysterious muscle weakness. Another wave hit in 2016, with 149 patients affected in 39 states.

Until now, researchers looking into the causes of AFM have searched for the presence of enteroviruses by looking for direct genetic evidence of the viruses in people's spinal fluid, Schubert said.

Enterovirus outbreaks are common and usually cause nothing more severe than common cold-like symptoms, but experts realized that these outbreaks tended to coincide with spikes in AFM, the study authors explained in background notes.

Unfortunately, tests looking for the RNA of enteroviruses in AFM patients tended to be less-than-adequate, Schubert said.

The virus could not be found in 98% of AFM patients who had their spinal fluid tested, and even when found the viruses are "detected at very low levels," Schubert said.

"The amount of virus is just very, very low," Schubert continued. "We don't know for sure why that is, but it was also the case with polio virus that it was difficult to detect that virus in the spinal fluid."

That led some skeptics to question whether AFM is actually an autoimmune disorder or is caused by some other as-yet-undiscovered virus, the researchers said.

"People were hung up on the fact that enteroviruses were rarely detected in the cerebrospinal fluid of AFM patients," senior researcher Dr. Michael Wilson, an associate professor of neurology and member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, said in a statement. "They wanted to know how someone could get neurologic symptoms with no virus detectable in their central nervous system."

Wilson, Schubert and their colleagues suspected that they might be better able to detect the presence of enteroviruses if they instead searched for antibodies created by the immune system to fight off the viruses.

The investigators turned to a Harvard-developed virus-hunting tool called VirScan, which allowed the researchers to look for signs of immune response in the spinal fluid of AFM patients.

The team found enterovirus antibodies in the spinal fluid of nearly 70% of the 42 AFM patients they tested.

The researchers also tested 58 patients who had been diagnosed with other neurological disorders, and fewer than 7% tested positive for the same antibodies.

According to Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, "This new study adds critical information about the presence of enteroviruses in AFM cases. Understanding the role of enteroviruses will help propel further research to determine the specific risk factors that transform a relatively innocuous upper respiratory infection into a life-altering paralytic illness and spur vaccine development."

Schubert agreed, suggesting that future AFM research should run along two parallel tracks.

On one track, researchers should use the new antibody test to completely nail down the link between enteroviruses and AFM, Schubert said.

On the other track, scientists should continue working on vaccines that will prevent infection by EV-D68 and EV-A71, as well as therapies that could neutralize the viruses before they cause AFM.

"This really suggests they're on the right track and should keep going," Schubert said of research teams already focused on enteroviruses and AFM.

The new study was published Oct. 21 in the journal Nature Medicine.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about acute flaccid myelitis.