Mosquito-Borne Virus Infects Human for First Time

It took scientists 18 months to figure it out
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2018 1:10 PM CDT
Mosquito-Borne Virus Infects Human for First Time
   (Getty Images)

A coastal virus that can cause a rash and mild fever has officially infected a person for the first time, NPR reports. Scientists say it took 18 months to figure out that a Florida teen who got sick during the Zika outbreak of 2016 actually had the Keystone virus, which is carried by mosquitos. "We couldn't identify what was going on," J. Glenn Morris, head of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, tells WUSF. "We screened this with all the standard approaches and it literally took a year and a half of sort of dogged laboratory work to figure out what this virus was." There wasn't even a test to detect Keystone virus in humans.

The 16-year-old boy had a fever and a bad rash, but not the encephalitis (or brain inflammation) that a group of viruses including Keystone can cause in animals. First seen in America in 1964, Keystone is known to infect "animal populations along coastal regions stretching from Texas to the Chesapeake Bay," per a University of Florida Health statement. Scientists have long suspected there are human cases, but the new study in Clinical Infectious Diseases confirms it. "The infection may actually be fairly common in North Florida," says lead study author John Lednicky. "It's one of these instances where if you don't know to look for something, you don't find it." (More virus stories.)

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