Paralyzing_Illness_72969

This 2014 file electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows numerous, spheroid-shaped enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68) virions. Scientists have found the strongest evidence yet that a virus is to blame for a mysterious and rare illness, called acute flaccid myelitis or AFM, that can start like the sniffles but quickly paralyze children. Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Yiting Zhang/CDC via AP, File

WASHINGTON — Scientists have found the strongest evidence yet that a virus is to blame for a mysterious illness that can start like the sniffles but quickly paralyze children.

The paralysis is very rare. U.S. health officials have confirmed 590 cases over the past five years.

Finding the cause is key to better care or developing a vaccine. But doctors seldom can find the chief suspect in patients’ spinal fluid.

So University of California, San Francisco, researchers instead tested how the immune system fought back. They found clear signs that an enterovirus, a common seasonal virus that specialists have suspected, was indeed the culprit.

The research was published Monday in Nature Medicine.

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