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New Arenavirus Tied to Fatal Illness After Transplants

The three patients who died had received organs from a single donor who had serologic evidence of recent infection

THURSDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified a new arenavirus, which was associated with fatal illness in three organ transplant patients who received organs from a single donor, according to an article published online Feb. 6 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Gustavo Palacios, Ph.D., of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues report on the newly identified microbe. The researchers used high-throughput sequencing to identify unique microbial sequences, and confirmed the new pathogen using culture, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and immunohistochemical and serologic analyses.

The three female transplant recipients all developed febrile illness with encephalopathy and died four to six weeks after transplantation with the kidneys and liver from a single male donor. DNA analysis uncovered sequences consistent with an Old World arenavirus, and analysis also suggested the virus was related to lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. PCR assays confirmed the presence of the virus in the kidneys, liver, blood and cerebrospinal fluid of the recipients. IgM and IgG antiviral antibodies were detected in the serum of the organ donor, suggesting recent infection.

"Unbiased high-throughput sequencing has been used to characterize complex mixtures of microflora in environmental contexts; we have shown that this strategy can be used to address a suspected outbreak of infectious disease," the authors conclude.

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