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West Nile virus infection may persist in kidneys years after initial infection
Date:12/7/2009

irus. In this group, five patients (20 percent) tested positive for the virus. Viral RNA could be detected in the urine for at least six years following infection. Four of the five patients who tested positive for virus also experienced chronic symptoms. Of these five, one patient developed kidney failure. These results show that West Nile virus is capable of long term persistence in patients, particularly when chronic symptoms are present.

In an accompanying editorial, Ernest Gould, PhD, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxford, England, points out that this study raises the additional concern that West Nile virus and other flaviviruses may be transmitted to mosquitoes by apparently healthy humans or animals. This possibility has the potential to start epidemics in new regions of the world.

According to Dr. Murray, patients who have been infected with West Nile virus should "have their kidneys monitored by their physician for any evidence of disease and be aware that persistent infection of the kidneys can happen." Dr. Murray also reminds the public to take proper precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites during transmission seasons, typically the summer and fall, to avoid infection.

More research is needed to "understand the underlying mechanisms related to the shedding of virus particles in urine, whether shedding of the virus is constant or intermittent, and whether or not this represents true infection resulting in kidney disease," the investigators say. They continue to evaluate all study participants, particularly in regard to kidney function. In addition, they are focusing on developing treatment options for those who remain infected with the virus.

Fast Facts

  • Individuals who have had severe infections with West Nile virus may harbor the virus in their kidneys for many years.
  • This study suggests that individuals infected with West Nile virus should have their kidneys monitore
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Contact: John Heys
jheys@idsociety.org
703-299-0412
Infectious Diseases Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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