A new virus, which causes respiratory, renal, dermatological and reproductive problems, has been detected for the first time in France in a patient undergoing immunosuppressive treatment.
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This is the first discovery of a circovirus in humans. This family of small DNA viruses, identified in animal species in the 1970s, is causing concern among the scientific community, which documented the discovery in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Should we be worried about its appearance? Here’s what you need to know.
1. Mysterious hepatitis
The Institut Pasteur, the research group that discovered the virus, says that “while the passage of animal viruses to humans is regularly reported in the scientific literature, it is rare for a new virus to be identified in Europe in a patient. “.
This virus, tentatively named Human Circovirus 1 (HCirV-1), was discovered in a 61-year-old woman who developed unexplained hepatitis.
“She had had a double heart and lung transplant 17 years earlier. We have been able to access many samples over several years,” explains Marc Eloit, one of the authors of the study surrounding the circovirus and head of the Pathogen Discovery laboratory at the Institut Pasteur.
Samples of infected tissue were taken from the woman for sequencing. This process allowed the researchers to identify the DNA sequence of the virus. The virus caused damage to his liver by infecting 2-3% of his cells.
The origin of the circovirus has not yet been identified, nor has its source of infection.
The woman was able to recover by following antiviral treatment.
2. Better diagnosis
A specific PCR test has been developed in order to be able to diagnose hepatitis of unknown origin.
“To adapt the treatment and the follow-up of the patients, it is essential for us to know the cause of the hepatitis, and in particular to know if it is viral”, estimates Anne Jamet, another collaborator of the study.
Note that many children in the United Kingdom and Ireland developed acute hepatitis last April, according to the WHO.
While a vaccine against circoviruses exists for some animals, no treatment currently exists to immunize humans.