A new strain of West Nile virus that causes brain damage in humans could be spread through air travel
A new coronavirus strain that causes the most severe neurological damage in people could be airborne, a new study has found.
The new strain, which researchers have dubbed “RXN”, is the most common strain in people with a history of travel to countries such as China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Nigeria.
“The risk of transmission of this strain has been documented in several countries, but we have found it in only one,” said the study’s senior author Dr Michael Schoenfeld, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in Baltimore.
“This means that our results may be applicable to people traveling in these countries, which may be a reason why the risk of this transmission has not been identified.”
The new variant, called the RXN-4, is also the most virulent of the five circulating variants.
It causes neurological damage that is more severe than other West Nile viruses.
“There are a lot of different factors that contribute to how much neurological damage a virus causes, but this variant causes the greatest damage, and that is the biggest risk,” Dr Schoenfield told the ABC.
“In the absence of any other evidence, it’s very unlikely that this strain is likely to be transmitted by air travel.”‘
A new strain’: New coronaviruses, new virus Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and the University in California, Davis, found that the RXNs-4 strain was the most contagious among the five known West Nile variants.
The findings, which were published in the journal Nature, were based on the data collected from more than 4,000 people, including those with travel history to the US, UK, Germany and France.
“Our study is important because it provides an objective estimate of the global number of people infected with this variant, and therefore the risk that this variant could spread to other countries,” Dr Michael Korsgaard, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology and virology at the University at Buffalo in New York, said in a statement.
“It also highlights the need to implement appropriate control measures in the US and other countries to minimize the spread of this virus.”
Dr Schoenfields team used data from more then 700 of the 4,200 people who visited the US from 2001 to 2014, and then re-ran the analysis on people who had no travel history, the researchers said.
The RXN variant caused the most serious neurological damage, but was not associated with any of the other symptoms reported.
“We were able to detect only about 20% of the individuals who were infected with the virus and the rest of the population did not show any signs of disease, suggesting that the risk was small,” Dr Korsgard said.
“A very large proportion of people in the general population did develop neurological symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and abdominal pain, but not with severe symptoms such as loss of consciousness, convulsions or coma.”
“This suggests that the main pathology in this variant is not due to the virus itself, but is associated with air travel, which would not have been the case in the absence [of travel],” Dr Schönfields said.