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Respiratory Tract Infections in Children Linked to Newly Discovered Virus

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Tobias Allander and Björn Andersson, of the Karolinska Institutet (KI), identified a previously unknown virus called human bocavirus that can cause respiratory illness in children.

The researchers discovered the virus in respiratory tract samples from children at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm utilizing a new method for virus discovery.

Currently, infections of the lower respiratory tract are a significant cause of hospitalization of children. In about 20% of cases, doctors are presently unable to determine the cause of the infection.

Dr. Allander, a scientist at KI’s Centre for Molecular Medicine and Department of Clinical Microbiology and an associate professor at KI’s Centre for Genomics and Bioinformatics along with his colleague Dr. Andersson, pioneered a method that allows for the systematic scanning of samples to detect unidentified viruses.

The Swedish team found bocavirus contributed to at least 3% of serious lower respiratory tract infections.

Dr. Allender commented: "We believe that the most important aspect of our discovery is that it will enable the discovery of many more viruses, and this may help us solve important medical questions. Identifying unknown viruses will probably help in developing diagnostics and treatment for diseases that are currently of unknown origin."

Many scientists believe that as yet unknown viruses may be involved in the development of diseases such as childhood diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The study can be found in the latest issue of PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA).

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