India is in the middle of a deadly pandemic, origins of which have been traced back to a wet seafood market in China. While there are reported evidence that the SARS- COV-2 virus originated in a Chinese lab, a new virus, ‘Cat Que’ could be another virus that could put lives in danger.
The fear of the viral spread has also alerted medical officials. Experts from ICMR have also sounded off an alarm, after finding evidence of antibodies related to the viral strain in India.
Here’s what we know so far
Trouble began when scientists from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) found some antibodies in 2 of the 883 human samples tested across different states in India. The antibodies were associated to the infectious, Cat Que Virus, proving that the virus, could have possibly infected some people at a point of time.
Terming it to be a ‘neglected virus at risk’, ICMR said that the two samples collected traced back to the year 2014 and 2017 in Karnataka. The virus hasn’t been found to be prevalent in any other human or animal sample, as per reports.
The study was undertaken by the ICMR in the year 2017. However, repeated resurgence in some Asian countries has made experts worry.
A statement reads: “Anti-CQV IgG antibody positivity in human serum samples tested and the replication capability of CQV in mosquitoes indicated a possible disease-causing potential of CQV in the Indian scenario. Screening of more human and swine serum samples using these assays is required as a proactive measure for understanding the prevalence of this neglected tropical virus.”
What is the Cat Que virus?
The mysterious Cat Que virus is a type of virus which is known to infect both animals (such as mosquitoes, pigs) as well as humans.
It is said that the virus could lead to scary symptoms like high fever, meningitis, paediatric encephalitis and is routinely seen in swine in districts of China and Vietnam.
Cat Que Virus, is a type of virus transmitted through arthropod vectors, also referred to as arbovirus. According to experts, there are over 130 different types of arboviruses in circulation, known to infect humans. The symptoms of the virus range in severity from asymptomatic, mild flu-like symptoms or very severe ones.
How does it spread?
While the infection normally spreads in poultry and mammals, it could also spread to humans through transmission from mosquitos and insects.
The main way of transmission is when a human host is bitten by an infected insect or a mosquito. Flavivirus, bunyavirus, dengue fever and the dangerous Japanese encephalitis are some of the most common strains known to impact humans.
Apart from bites, arboviruses could also impact humans by means of blood transfusion, transplant, sexual contact, pregnancy and giving birth.
According to ICMR, in India, certain mosquito breeds such as aegypti, Cx quinquefasciatus and Cx Tritaeniorhynchus are more at risk and can act as a medium for further transmission.
The findings of the study were published in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR).
Scientists have also suggested that the traces of the infection found in mammals like swine, a wild myna bird, and mosquitoes could mean that the virus could turn into a public health crisis, much like the coronavirus pandemic.