Study suggests link between Colo. paralysis cases and respiratory virus

February 12, 2015

Researchers may be getting closer to zeroing in on the cause of a mystery illness that caused paralysis in more than a dozen Colorado children last fall.   

Starting in August last year, more than 100 children in 34 states developed a sudden type of paralysis or muscle weakness in the face and limbs. The list included 14 in Colorado.

Researchers from Children’s Hospital Colorado recently published a study suggesting the paralysis may be linked, as suspected, to the respiratory virus called enterovirus-D68.

“I think this is the first clue to what could potentially be the cause of some of these cases." said Dr. Kevin Messacar, who lead the study. "I think some of the future research efforts that are planned will start to get to the bottom of this.”

Most of the Colorado children with the virus were hospitalized at Children’s Hospital.

Messacar said all have since been released from the hospital. Their paralysis symptoms have improved but not gone away.

The study is published in the British medical journal The Lancet.

“I think it’s a big challenge in the medical community when you have a new disease present," says Messacar.  "I think it’s driving a lot of very important research and I think we will get some answers with some of the research studies that are planned.”

Identifying a cause could help lead to new therapies and vaccines.