Deadly Chinese outbreaks linked to new virus

March 23rd, 2011 - 2:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 23 (IANS) Researchers have linked the outbreak of a mysterious and deadly disease in central China, five years ago, with a previously unknown virus.

At that time, a large numbers of farmers began falling victim to the disease marked by high fever, gastrointestinal disorder and an appalling mortality rate - as high as 30 percent in initial reports.

On the basis of DNA evidence, investigators from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention quickly concluded that it had been caused by human granulocytic anaplasmosis, (HGA) a bacteria transmitted by tick bites.

Subsequent studies have shown that original conclusion was incorrect, and a previously unknown and dangerous virus has been responsible for seasonal outbreaks of the disease in six of China’s most populated provinces, the New England Journal of Medicine reports.

“We expected to find a bacterial infection behaving in an unexpected way - HGA has a less than one percent fatality rate in the US, and it rarely causes abdominal pain or vomiting or diarrhoea,” said Xue-Jie Yu of the University of Texas Medical Branch, who led the study. “Instead, we found an unknown virus.”

Researchers have dubbed the newly discovered pathogen Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome virus, and placed it in the Bunyaviridae family, along with the hantaviruses and Rift Valley Fever virus.

Later investigation has placed its mortality rate at 12 percent, still alarmingly high, according to a Texas University statement.

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