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New tick-borne virus discovered

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The list of tick-borne pathogens continues to grow, including in Switzerland: Researchers from the Institute of Virology of the University of Zurich (UZH) have now detected the Alongshan virus (ALSV) in ticks for the first time. Alongshan infection causes high fever, headache and fatigue. Symptoms tend to resolve within a week of therapy. The UZH team is working on a diagnostic test to assess the epidemiological situation.

 

The ALS virus, first discovered in China in 2017, is a member of the flavivirus family. After being bitten by ticks, several patients suffered from fever and headache, typical symptoms of a TBE infection, or Thick-borne encephalitis (Tick-borne encephalitis). However, no antibodies to the TBE virus or its genetic material could be detected in affected individuals. Instead, the researchers found a previously unknown RNA virus, the Alongshan virus.

The complete genetic sequence of the virus was found in numerous tick samples collected in different regions of Switzerland between 2021 and 2022. “Surprisingly, ALS viruses were detected in tick samples much more frequently than TBE viruses,” says Cornel Fraefel, director of the Institute of Virology. Since the symptoms of an ALS virus infection are similar to those of a TBE virus infection, the Alongshan virus may already be a public health problem in Switzerland, even if it has not been recognized so far.

Unlike TBE virus, there are currently no methods of vaccination or serological detection for ALS virus. “Now that we have identified the new virus and published the complete viral genome sequence , our team is developing a serological test to detect ALS virus infections in blood samples from patients,” says Fraefel. In collaboration with the National Reference Laboratory for Tick-Borne Diseases and the Spiez laboratory, the researchers plan to study the epidemiological spread of the ALS virus in Switzerland next year.

  • New Virus Discovered in Swiss Ticks (news.uzh.ch)
 

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