News of the WeekInfectious Diseases

Rival Teams Identify a Virus Behind Deaths in Central China

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Science  01 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6000, pp. 20-21
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6000.20

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Every summer for 3 years, hundreds of people in central China came down with an illness characterized by high fever and gastrointestinal distress; as many as 30% of the victims died. By early 2007, scientists had fingered the killer as human granulocytic anaplasmosis, an emerging bacterial infection from tick bites. But last December, a different team identified a new kind of bunyavirus, a family that includes infamous members such as hantavirus and Rift Valley fever virus. The finding unmasks a dangerous new emerging virus—not a bacterial outbreak—and explains why antibiotics failed to stop it. Behind the scenes, however, a fierce argument has broken out over who discovered the virus.