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Course of West Nile Infection Charted
Date:3/18/2009

an's symptoms began one week after the needle mishap and included, at first, backache and stiffness in the neck. This was soon followed by a mild fever and symptoms of meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and surrounding membrane) such as severe headache, sensitivity to light and joint pain.

The symptoms subsided in about three weeks, and the woman had completely recovered by day 26 post-infection.

Blood levels of 16 cytokines were measured on the day of infection and eight subsequent days, including the day of full recovery, and compared to a blood sample taken from the patient five years after her illness.

They found that levels of the cytokines interferon-alpha and interleukin-13, both of which have effects on the immune system, were elevated.

The authors speculated that increased levels of interferon-a might help treat neurological infection from West Nile, because interferon-a has a dampening effect on the inflammatory responses of the body.

According to Venter, two patients with West Nile Virus-related encephalitis had shown improvement when treated with interferon alpha.

"Our study confirms that this cytokine increases to high levels when symptoms became apparent in our patient and supports the use of interferon alpha 2 beta as a treatment," she said. "Other cytokines that have been highlighted in the course of this neurological case that warrant further research for their role in controlling West Nile Virus infection include interferon inducible protein 10 (IP10) and interleukin 13."

"The case study also highlights that this strain of the virus, West Nile virus lineage 2, which is endemic to Southern Africa, may cause severe disease and should be considered as a cause of neurological disease to patients living here and travelers to this area," Venter added. "This contradicts the general belief that West Nile Virus lineage 2 only causes mild disease but rather suggests that it ma
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