"Cristoli": new virus discovered by French researchers

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French virologists have identified a new virus in a patient with fatal encephalitis. They called it the "Cristoli virus". But, what is it about?

Virologists at Henri-Mondor Hospital in Créteil have identified a new virus responsible for encephalitis, in other words, inflammation of the brain, reveals Le Parisien. They called it the "Cristoli virus," meaning "Créteil virus," and they presented their research results in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

At the origin of this discovery? The case of a 58-year-old patient with unexplained encephalitis, who died. To find the origin, the doctors carried out a brain biopsy, which they had analyzed by the Henri-Mondor Hospital team.

This sample allowed scientists to observe this new virus, which belongs to the ortobunya virus family. "They are transmitted by insects, often mosquitoes, but are rarely responsible for serious diseases. Most transmissions are asymptomatic," says Professor Jean-Michel Pawlotsky, head of the department of medical biology at Mondor in Paris. The presence of this virus could explain the severity of the infection in this patient, who was also immunocompromised.

Cristoli virus: an isolated case

To identify the Cristoli virus, the researchers used the same process that allowed Chinese teams to discover the coronavirus behind Covid-19: metagenomics. "It is based on what is called next-generation sequencing. Clearly, we take samples of blood, urine, feces, sputum, therefore, in this case, brain biopsy, and then extract the nucleic acids to fully sequence them. In this huge haystack, technology allows to identify pieces that belong to already known infectious agents or to foreigners ", explains Professor Jean-Michel Pawlotsky. The Cristoli virus is thus observed and referenced for the first time.

What about its dangerousness? At this point in the Covid-19 epidemic, this question is on everyone's lips. But the specialist assures: "We are not describing a new epidemic. This is a unique, isolated case, without any relation to the coronavirus. At the moment, nothing indicates that it is circulating in the territory."

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