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Newly discovered virus causes respiratory tract infections in children


Scientists at Karolinska Institutet have discovered a previously unknown virus that has been found to affect children. The virus, called human bocavirus, was identified by the team using a new method for virus discovery on respiratory tract samples drawn from children at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. Their findings are published in the latest issue of PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA).

Respiratory problems caused by infection of the lower respiratory tract are a leading cause of hospitalisation of children. In about 20 per cent of cases, it is currently impossible to determine the causative agent. The Swedish team detected the bocavirus in 3 percent of cases of serious lower respiratory tract infection.

"Viral infections are one of the world’s most serious health problems," says virus researcher Tobias Allander. "They can cause everything from AIDS to the common cold, and they kill thousands of people a day. Despite this, we do not have a full picture of all the viruses that infect humans."

Dr. Allander and colleague Björn Andersson have now developed a method that makes it possible to systematically scan samples for unknown viruses.

"We believe that the most important aspect of our discovery is that it will enable the discovery of many more viruses, and this may help us solve important medical questions," says Dr. Allander. "Identifying unknown viruses will probably help in developing diagnostics and treatment for diseases that are currently of unknown origin." Many scientists believe that as yet unknown viruses can be involved in the development of for example childhood diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Dr. Allander is a scientist at KI’s Centre for Molecular Medicine and Department of Clinical Microbiology at Karolinska University Hospital. Dr. Andersson is an associate professor at KI’s Centre for Genomics and Bioinformatics.

Tobias Allander | alfa
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