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Ocean virus identified in human blood samples

A virus of ocean origin that can cause a range of diseases in several animal species has been found in human blood samples. The virus, or antibodies to it, was found most often in the blood of individuals with liver damage, or hepatitis of unknown cause related to blood exposure.

A study on these findings was published Wednesday in the online edition of the Journal of Medical Virology, by scientists from Oregon State University, the Center for Pediatric Research at Eastern Virginia Medical School, and AVI BioPharma.

The association between viral infection and the presence of a disease of unknown cause does not prove cause and effect, the researchers say, but the data are intriguing and raise important new questions. Further research is needed to establish proof that infection with this virus in humans is causing liver damage or some other problems, which may include encephalitis and spontaneous abortion.

The viral group being studied is the genus Vesivirus, one of four genera in the Caliciviridae viral family. Some caliciviruses cause disease in humans, such as the Norwalk virus that causes gastroenteritis. Other caliciviruses cause a wide range of disease in other animal species. The Lagovirus genus causes a fatal hemorrhagic disease and hepatitis that has killed millions of rabbits across four continents in the past 20 years.

In more than 30 years of research, part of what has been found to be unusual about caliciviruses is that they can cause multiple diseases and affect a broad range of marine and terrestrial animal species ?a single Vesivirus serotype has infected species as diverse as fish, seals, shellfish, swine, cattle, primates and humans, the researchers said in their report.

In the latest study on potential human impacts, scientists looked at samples from more than 700 blood donors at a laboratory that serves eight western states, as well as some samples from patients with clinical hepatitis.

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Source:Oregon State University


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