July 11, 2012

Mysterious Cambodia Illness Explained

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

According to a CNN report, the cause of a mysterious illness that claimed the lives of over 60 Cambodian children has been found.

Medical doctors with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Cambodian Ministry of Health found that a combination of pathogens is to blame for the illness.

The pathogens found include entrovirus 71, according to the CNN report, which is known to cause streptococcus suis, a neurological disease.

CNN said the WHO is expected to advise health care workers to refrain from using steroids in patients with symptoms, because the inappropriate use of steroids can suppress the immune system and worsen the condition of the patients.

The report said the WHO sources did not want to be identified yet because the results of the health organization's investigation have not been made public.

"I'm very confident for the reason of the epidemic," Dr. Phillipe Buchy, chief of virology at the Institute Pasteur in Cambodia and one of the doctors who cracked the case, told CNN.

Doctors at Kantha Bopha Children's Hospitals in Phnom Penh have been facing the mysterious syndrome for the past four months. It has killed children so fast that nearly all of those infected die within a day or two of being admitted into the hospital.

Dr. Beat Richner, head of the children's hospitals, told CNN that no new cases of the illness had been confirmed since Saturday.

He said that in the last hours of their life, the children experienced a total destruction of the alveola in the lungs, which are air sacs where oxygen enters the bloodstream.

Lab tests linked enterovirus 71 (EV71) to some of the cases, but the tests did not solve the whole puzzle, according to CNN.

It said that the link to the pathogen does not particularly help in the treatment of the illness, and there is no effective antiviral treatment for severe EV71 infections.

"It looks like (EV71) has emerged strongly, probably because it hadn't circulated with the same intensity in the past years," Tarantola told CNN.