Patients in Vietnam and other locations with central nervous system infections may well be suffering from the effects of a newly discovered virus, according to a study to be published in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. Researchers have detected the virus in spinal fluid from 4% of 642 patients with central nervous system infections of unknown cause, and in an average of 58% of fecal samples from pigs and poultry, suggesting animals may serve as reservoirs for transmission to humans. The virus, called CyCV-VN, belongs to the Cyclovirus genus, a group that has never before been implicated in human or animal disease.
“The detection of CyCV-VN in a usually sterile material like cerebrospinal fluid is remarkable and may point to a pathogenic role of this virus as a single or a co-infecting pathogen,” says corresponding author Tan Le Van of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The results in this study, Van cautions, do not provide absolute proof of disease causation, and further work is needed to see whether the virus poses a threat to human and animal health.
Acute central nervous system infections are responsible for illnesses and deaths around the world, but they are a particular problem in tropical regions. These infections can be caused by any of a number of bacterial, parasitic, fungal or viral pathogens, but the majority of cases go undiagnosed despite extensive efforts to identify a cause. “One of our particular interests is to improve patient diagnosis,” says Van. Proper diagnosis “is essential to improve clinical management and prevention of these devastating diseases, he continues.
Inspired by the high incidence of acute central nervous system infections in Vietnam, Van and his colleagues set out to identify previously uncharacterized viruses in undiagnosed patients. Using fluid samples from more than 1,700 patients with suspected central nervous system infections or suspected viral encephalitis, the researchers generated 161,000 DNA sequence reads for further analysis.
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Contributed by American Society For Microbiology of ASM.org.