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04th Dec 2023

Never-been-seen virus discovered after man struck down with Malaria-like illness

Charlie Herbert

Never been seen virus discovered after man struck down with Malaria-like illness

A never-before-seen virus has been discovered in Peru after a construction worker fell ill.

The unidentified patient was struck down by the virus in 2019 and went to Hospital De La Merced Chanchamayo in central Peru with symptoms including a fever, chills and muscle and joint pain.

It is not clear whether the man recovered from the illness, which has been described as similar to malaria and dengue, the MailOnline reports.

Scientists discovered the new pathogen after taking a blood sample from the man, which was sent for further laboratory testing at the US Naval Medical Research Unit in Lima.

This revealed a previously unknown phlebovirus. Phleboviruses cause acute feverish illnesses including malaria and Rift Valley fever. Rift Valley fever in particular can be fatal if it develops into haemorrhagic fever, causing bleeding from the mouth, ears, eyes and internal organs.

Phleboviruses are usually spread by biting insects such as sandflies, mosquitoes and ticks.

Writing of the discovery of the new virus in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, scientists called on health chiefs to monitor the viruses behind malaria-like symptoms so they can spot emerging infections and protect the public.

The authors explained that the new virus was created by the Candiru virus exchanging fragments of DNA with a new strain of the Echarate virus and warned that it is likely to be circulating in the central Peruvian jungle.

“Our findings indicate that a novel ECHV variant is circulating in the jungle of central Peru,” they said. 

“Because the clinical symptoms of infection with this variant are also [similar to] dengue, malaria, and other tropical infectious diseases common in this region, continued biosurveillance is needed to detect novel and emerging pathogens to protect the health of the population and US service members deployed in affected areas in Peru. 

“Studies are necessary to determine how widespread the new variant is within this region, to identify potential vectors and reservoirs involved in its transmission, and to support decision-making for keeping service members medically prepared and protected from health and safety threats both on and off duty.”

Health bosses in the UK have called for patients with fever-causing illnesses to be monitored, with the UK Health Security Agency saying this is “necessary to detect novel and emerging pathogens.”

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