Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)

NIAID working on enterovirus vaccine to fight acute flaccid myelitis

Photo of Enterovirus D-68, a suspect in causing AFM
Electron microscope photo of EV-D68, a suspect in causing AFM. Photo: Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Yiting Zhang/CDC

Recent research showing stronger links between an enterovirus and the polio-like illness called acute flaccid myelitis has led the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to start work on an EV-D68 vaccine, director Anthony Fauci tells Axios.

Why it matters: While rare, the devastating illness AFM suddenly strikes children, causing abrupt muscle weakness, paralysis or sometimes death. Researchers have been on the hunt for its cause — and while not definitive, the link with enterovirus D68 has grown stronger, including via a new study in the peer-reviewed journal mBio.

CDC seeks cause of polio-like illness, urges quick reporting

Intense effort is underway to understand and prevent acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the agency pushes doctors to report symptoms early, per its new Vital Signs report.

Why it matters: Doctors continue to seek the cause of the serious neurologic syndrome after the largest recorded outbreak in 2018 — 233 patients in 41 states reported symptoms that often included limb weakness or paralysis. The CDC has expressed frustration in determining the source of the illness, as some but not all patients show evidence of enteroviruses, which are spread through the nervous system, in their bodies.