At least 21 people have died from the deadly virus, the Saudi health ministry said on Thursday.
Dr. Thomas Geisbert, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Texas, said humans’ fat tissues carry the virus and it is more dangerous than other types of avian influenza viruses.
With influenza season starting in the U.S., Geisbert and his team have announced a new fat tissue detection method that could help experts in human cases. The fat tissue virus that they have developed, which is still in the early stages of development, was used for the first time on Sunday in an 18-month-old Belgian girl who died of clinical hemolytic uremic syndrome (CUSH), an infection of the kidney caused by the virus.
HUMAN FAT TISSUE VISIBLE IN CONVECTION TO OTHER VIRUSES, NEW PATHOLOGY DEVELOPED
“Existing technologies cannot identify the virus from blood because there is a lack of a contrast agent for the screening,” Geisbert said. “The virus also looks different from human swabs which are not sensitive to the virus,” said Geisbert. “A two-dimensional table model of the fat tissue would allow the removal of genetic material that is observed in the cells around the virus particle. Once the virus is removed, the elimination of the virion reduces the viral load so it can be detected from regular blood serum and blood culture.”
It’s estimated that a disease like CUSH could kill thousands of people across the globe if not treated correctly.
Geisbert and his team currently have no funding to test this new method for humans. They have not yet tested the study in humans in a clinical setting.
“If this virus ever becomes a pandemic, it could change the average infectious disease epidemic as we know it today,” Geisbert said. “Right now, the virus can not spread easily from person to person or from human to animal. We’ve been able to study its genetic material for years, but we don’t have an effective way to see if the virus is actually in human cells.”