Team of Arizona researchers find specific tie to paralyzing virus

Jan 22, 2019, 3:00 PM
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PHOENIX — Molecular biology researchers based in Arizona said Tuesday they have been able to tie a virus with an outbreak that has led to paralysis in some hospitalized children in Phoenix.

Dr. David Engelthaler of the TGen Research Institute said testing singled out a nonpolio virus, dubbed EV-D68, as a common factor in the local illnesses.

“We were able to show that, unfortunately, these patients in the Phoenix area were certainly infected with [an enterovirus] just prior to them developing the paralysis symptoms,” Engelthaler told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

The virus was found in at least four of the 11 children who were admitted to Phoenix-area hospitals since 2014 suffering from muscle weakness or paralysis.

“It’s really hard to prove when a virus causes a neurologic illness,” the director of programs and operations for TGen North in Flagstaff said.

“But this virus seems to be showing up more and more in patients that have” acute flaccid myelitis.

Engelthaler said there still was no formal recognition of the illness.

Hospitalized children have lost movement in their arms, legs, face and neck about a week after they had fevers and problems breathing.

State and Maricopa County officials asked the nonprofit to try to identify the cause.

In mid-December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there had been 158 confirmed cases in 36 states on the year.

“The good news is this is still a rare illness, but the bad news is we really don’t have a treatment for it. There’s not a great way to quickly identify it,” Engelthaler said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.

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Team of Arizona researchers find specific tie to paralyzing virus