Strange virus worries scientists in Bolivia



At a conference on tropical medicine, scientists from the CDC shared their findings on the human-to-human transmission of a puzzling virus, the Chapare virus. In a Bolivian hospital, he killed three people suffering from symptoms similar to Ebola.

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[EN VIDÉO] What are the differences between bacteria and viruses?
They are microbes. They are very small and we confuse them quite easily. However, bacteria and viruses are two very different things. And to fight effectively against those who cause diseases, it is better to clearly identify them.

In a hospital in La Paz, Bolivia, several people were treated for one fever hemorrhagic. It is not Ebola disease that torments these patients, but another virus what causes symptoms similar: Chapare virus. Five people who came into contact with these patients were in turn infected, including a physician assistant, a paramedic and a gastroenterologist in the hospital. Two of them died from this infection.

It happened in 2019 and constitutes the first description of the human-to-human transmission of the Chapare virus. This case was the subject of a presentation by scientists from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) during the last congress of theAmerican Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, that is now being held. Scientists are particularly concerned about the spread of this virus, of which little has been described.

Virus recurrence observed in 2004

The first confirmed case of infection against Chapare virus dates back to 2004 in a municipality in the province of Chapare, from which it takes its name, east of La Paz. It belongs to the genre Arena virus, which groups viruses ARN, originally shrouded in hemorrhagic fever, such as Lhasa fever. The Ebola virus does not belong to this genus, it is one Ebola virus from the family of Filoviridae. Diseases caused by Arena virus are sometimes referred to as New World Fevers. The infected patients suffered from fever, pains abdominal pain, vomiting and bleeding gums. There is no specific treatment.

Chapare virus is transmitted by biological fluids (blood, urine, saliva, sperm) contaminated. It appears that the doctor’s assistant was infected by sucking up the saliva of an infected patient. The presence of the virus RNA in the semen of an infected patient who survived for 168 days after infection raises the question of sexual transmission. All Chapare virus transmission routes still remain foggy.

An emerging infectious disease under surveillance

Caitlin Cossaboom, an epidemiologist at the CDC, has conducted research to identify the natural reservoir of the Chapare virus. To be genome was isolated from small rodents, pygmy paddy field rats (genus Oligoryzomys). They were found near the place of life of the first patient infected during the 2019 epidemic. Therefore, we cannot be sure that humans have become infected through contact with these animals, as the presence of the virus genome does not attest to its ability to be contagious, but it is a valuable clue.

Scientists are now working on tests of diagnosticsince the disease is poorly understood, it can easily be confused with others. Since this case in 2019, other Chapare virus infections have been reported, including one involving a child. Scientists follow the evolution of this emerging infectious disease.

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