In the summer of 2014, an epidemic of paralysis in children took place in the US. Children under 6 years of age first developed a cold, and a few days later they could not move an arm or a leg. This condition is called acute flaccid myelitis, and a virus called enterovirus D-68 was identified as a cause. This virus caused a similar outbreak of paralysis in children in 2016 and now, in 2018, a third outbreak is ongoing. Because our laboratory formerly did research on poliovirus, which is well known for paralyzing children, we began working on enterovirus D-68 to understand how it infects the respiratory tract, how the virus spreads to the brain and spinal cord, and how it damages nerve cells. Your support for this work is needed in order to generate the basic information needed to prevent or treat these infections. We currently do not have financial support for this urgent and timely research.
The CDC reports nearly 200 confirmed cases of AFM (acute flaccid myelitis) in 2018, almost twice as many as in the 2014 outbreak. This is the largest number of cases of AFM in the US since the heyday of polio. Our laboratory hypothesizes that many of these cases are associated with an enterovirus infection, including enterovirus D68. Our laboratory has been hard at work to understand how enterovirus D68 might cause this disease. We have learned that EV-D68 isolates from 1962 to 2015 can infect human brain neurons and astrocytes. Damage of these cells by virus infection could compromise motor function and lead to AFM. With our collaborator at Columbia University we are generating three-dimensional human lung respiratory cultures to identify the cells that are infected by EV-D68. In addition we have promising leads on identifying compounds that inhibit viral reproduction. Our goal is to determine if these compounds can protect neurons and astrocytes from viral infection and might eventually be developed into antiviral therapies. Thank you for helping us reach 58% of our fundraising goal. Please help us reach 100% of our goal and allow us to move forward with this timely research.
Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D
Amy Rosenfeld, Ph.D