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Mystery Paralysis In Children Baffles Researchers

A medical mystery is confounding researchers and doctors around the United States.

Researchers Aaron Milstone and Priya Duggal of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are studying the enterovirus (EV-D68) and a bizarre polio-like paralysis known as acute flaccid myelitis.

The researchers believe the paralysis is somehow linked to last year's outbreak of enterovirus, which caused thousands of children to be taken to emergency rooms with serious breathing problems.

So far, 112 children in 34 states have experienced this paralysis condition. However, many of the siblings of these children were exposed to enterovirus and didn't have any of the same symptoms.

Duggal explained to The Washington Post what she and Milstone hope to find in their research: “Is there something in these [paralyzed] kids that is different than the kids that are fine? Maybe it’s the host, and the virus is a trigger that sets off the paralysis ... Maybe it’s something in their genetic makeup.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted: "About two thirds of the children who have been observed (median 19 days) after their illness reported some improvement in symptoms, while about one third showed no improvement. Only one of the children has fully recovered."

However, the kids who experience the paralysis don't always have enterovirus.

“We looked at blood, spinal fluid, stool — thinking we’d find [the EV-D68] virus,” Mary Anne Jackson, of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, told The Washington Post. “It just wasn’t there.”

What researchers do see in patients is damage to the spinal cord.

"That’s the classic feature of polio," Jackson said. “On the [MRI] scan, it looks like polio.”

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Washington Post / Image Credit: D. Sharon Pruitt


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