Scientists report that a man in Peru has been infected with a virus never seen before. He is said to have contracted it in the jungle. The man had a clinical picture that resembled that of dengue fever, malaria and other tropical infectious diseases from the region. Although this was a one-off case, scientists suspect that the new virus is probably still circulating somewhere in the jungles of South America.
The mysterious new pathogen was discovered when a 20-year-old man was admitted to the Hospital Regional Docent de Medicina Tropical Julio César Demarini Caro in the city of Chanchamayo in central Peru. This already happened in 2019, but the scientific publication that reported this only appeared this year. The patient suffered from various complaints including high fever, chills, discomfort, muscle pain, joint stiffness, headache, drowsiness, intense sensitivity to light and pain in his eyes.
This did not raise any alarm bells among doctors, as these symptoms are quite typical of many tropical diseases found in South America. However, laboratory examination of his blood samples showed that there was something more going on. The man had contracted a new phlebovirus.
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The best known phlebovirus is the Rift Valley fever virus © ThinkStock
The best known phlebovirus is the Rift Valley fever virus, a serious pathogen spread by mosquitoes and commonly found in domesticated animals in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, in cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and camels.
However, this newly identified phlebovirus is something completely different. Genetic analysis suggests it is an ‘Echarate’ phlebovirus that has naturally acquired genes from another ‘yet unidentified phlebovirus’. Viruses do this through genetic recombination.
It is currently unclear in what quantities the virus occurs and in which animal species it uses to survive
The scientists who studied the virus say their findings indicate a new virus variant is likely circulating in the jungles of central Peru. It is currently unclear in what quantities the virus occurs and in which animal species it uses to survive.
“Scientific research is needed to determine how widespread the new variant is within this region. But also to find out what its natural reservoirs are and how they are transferred,” the researchers said. “In this way we can help the government in their decision-making, protect people’s health and help the medical world to better prepare for the virus.”
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The new virus is probably still circulating somewhere in the jungles of South America. © Getty Images
It appears that the risk from this virus is low. It has been several years since the infection occurred and there are no further reports of its spread. But it once again points out that new pathogens exist and that it is increasingly likely that we will come into contact with them in the future.
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