A new tick-borne virus, named Bourbon virus, has been identified. It has been found to be of the same family as all the influenza viruses. The Bourbon virus caused the death of a man last year after the latter was exposed to ticks. His blood was later analysed and the presence of the previously unknown virus was detected. Tests were then carried out to determine its identity.
Scientists have discovered a new species of virus that has been shown to be lethal to man. Months of analysis showed that the virus belongs to the family of influenza viruses. The research works began after a man in the US died after exposure to ticks.
The man’s blood was examined for any known tick-borne illnesses but none of them was found. Rather, a wholly different virus was spotted, one that does not match with any virus from previous records. The findings of the study documenting the case and the new virus species were published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The medical case
The victim of the infection was a healthy man from Bourbon County, Kansas. He was working outdoors in the spring of 2013 when he got exposed to ticks. Days later, he found tick bites on his body, with one swollen tick still attached to his shoulder. He then started having symptoms like diarrhea and weakness, lack of appetite, and chills.
When he sought medical assistance, he was given antibiotics prescribed for tick-borne diseases. He was later admitted to the hospital because his condition had deteriorated. He had fever, and an increased heart rate and blood pressure. Blood tests revealed that his white blood cell and platelet counts had gone down.
More tests showed that he had not been infected by the known tick-borne pathogens.
His health worsened as the days went by. Within 11 days of becoming ill, he died of multi-organ failure.
The cause of his death remained elusive.
His blood was still the subject of scrutiny even after his death. Finally, scientists found that an unknown virus was behind his health condition. The pathogen was found to be a member of the Thogotovirus genus, of the same family as all three influenza viruses, the Orthomyxoviridae.
The new virus was named Bourbon virus, because of the region from which the first documented victim came from.
Two of the other tick-borne thogotoviruses were found to infect humans in the past. Few cases have been brought to the attention of researchers. These two viruses led to brain inflammation in patients, but they were not associated with decrease in blood cells.
It is to be noted that though the first case of the Bourbon virus might have been spotted only last year, the virus itself might have been in existence since long ago. People could possibly have been infected by it in the past without leading to death; it could have only caused mild illnesses. With more sophisticated technology now, more cases might be identified.