A new study indicates that the human coronavirus (HCoV), a virus known to cause respiratory infections in people, may also be the source of neurological diseases that affect patients. According to a Multiple Sclerosis News Today report, the results of the study support the idea that diseases of an unknown origin, such as multiple sclerosis and encephalitis, may be induced by the virus. The researchers investigated the case of an 11-year-old boy with severe immunodeficiency and symptoms of viral encephalitis, and the virus was not detected via conventional methods. The boy underwent a stem cell transplant and died a month and half after treatment.

The team subsequently used a modern laboratory technique called deep sequencing that allows the detection of molecules produced by the virus to analyze a brain biopsy sample. Through this technique, the team found the presence of the human coronavirus (strand OC43) in the brain tissue, confirming it with other techniques also. In a news release, Pierre Talbot, one of the authors of the study, says, “Among the methods used, deep sequencing of biopsy materials provides an important tool for the diagnosis of unexplained encephalitis, particularly in immunodeficient patients who have undergone stem cell transplantation.”

The researchers write, “The human betacoronaviruses, including HCoV-OC43, are predominantly associated with respiratory tract infections. The group includes viruses that cause the severe acute respiratory syndrome and the Middle East respiratory syndrome.”

The researchers note that although this viral strand HCoV-OC43 is frequently “associated with mild upper respiratory tract infections, it has been shown to have neuroinvasive properties.” The Multiple Sclerosis News Today report indicates that in vivo studies in mice, specifically, have demonstrated that “HCoV-OC43 can infect neurons and cause encephalitis.”

Another study also detected this virus in the cerebrospinal fluid of a child with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. Multiple Sclerosis News Today reports that in the case of multiple sclerosis, studies from the 1980s–90s have reported the presence of HCoV-OC43 in brain biopsies of MS patients. Overall, the research team concluded that the development of a standard method for identifying viruses or other pathogens can aid treatment decisions, namely in the choice of therapies for patients with neurological disorders.

Source: Multiple Sclerosis News Today