Enterovirus D68, a cousin of the poliovirus, suspected of causing acute weak myelitis. Image: Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Yiting Zhang (CDC)…
Enterovirus D68, a cousin of the poliovirus, suspected of causing acute weak myelitis. Image: Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Yiting Zhang (CDC)
The disease prevention and prevention centers are all about investigating a mysterious polio-like disease that paralyzes young children. Earlier this week, the Agency announced that it would form a working group to better treat and confirm the cause of acute myelitis (AFM), which seems to be a response to a significant blow in case this year.
AFM affects the nervous system, damaging the spinal cord area made of gray matter. Its victim is almost always a child, who can develop symptoms such as muscle weakness, difficulty speaking or swallowing and paralysis. According to the CDC, so far 108 confirmed cases of AFM have been documented over 29 states in 2018 so far, of a total of 273 reports sent to CDC. (Some of these potential cases are still being investigated). There are no reported deaths yet, but AFM can be fatal.
“I want to confirm parents, patients and our nation CDC’s commitment to this serious medical condition,” says Robert R. Redfield, CDR director in a statement Monday. “This task force will ensure that the full capacity of scientific society is committed and cooperating to provide important responses and solutions for actively detecting, more effective treatment and finally preventing AFM and its consequences. “
Doctors have known the presence of AFM for a long time, as it was historically caused by an infection of the poliovirus However, with the advent of the polio vaccine and the possible eradication of polio in the United States, the condition became extremely rare.
However, cases in AFM began to be detected much more often in 2014, which led to the CDC monitoring carefully. That year, 120 cases were reported. Since then, AFM has followed a strange pattern that apparently jumps in frequency every two years. In 2015 there were for example, only 22 confirmed cases, while 2016 saw 150 cases. By 2017, the number of cases dropped again to only 33. This year has confirmed the pattern, but we still do not know why it happens.
What we know is that polio does not cause these newer cases of AFM, who have left doctors wondering what exactly is. In 2014, the outbreak of AFM followed a particularly large outbreak of enterovirus D68, a cousin of the poliovirus that usually causes cold. Most children with AFM have reported that they have a respiratory infection or fever just before they come down with AFM, which further causes it.
CDC currently confirms D68’s likely role in the AFM, but has not come out and approved it as the prime sinner. This is probably due to the lack of direct evidence. While physicians have found D68 in the spinal fluid of some AFM patients, most cases have no sign of D68 spinal infection, and D68 is not the only virus found in the patient’s spinal fluid.
Other physicians, including some of the first to detect AFM 2014, have recently claimed that the growing pace of circumstance evidence, including evidence that current D68 strains have mutated and resemble polio virus much more as they used-are now more than enough to judge D68. But time will tell if the working group composed of CDC will agree.