Virus discovered in China 5 years ago appears in ticks from Switzerland

Researchers from the University of Zurich (Switzerland) found for the first time the alongshan virus (ALSV), discovered in China only five years ago, in ticks from Switzerland.

Ticks can transmit many different pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Of particular concern are the virus encephalitis tick-borne disease (TBE), which can cause inflammation of the brain and the linings of the brain and spinal cord, and the bacteria that cause the infectious disease of lyme (borreliosis).

ALSV, first discovered in China in 2017, it belongs to the flavivirus family along with the TBE virus. After being bitten by ticksseveral patients suffered from fever and headaches, the typical symptoms of a TBE infection.

And yet, no antibodies against the TBE virus or its genetic material could be detected in the individuals affected. Instead, the researchers found a hitherto unknown RNA virus, the Alongshan virus.

The complete genetic sequence of ALSV was found in numerous tick samples collected in various regions of Swiss in 2021 and 2022. “Surprisingly, the viruses were detected in tick samples much more frequently than the TBE viruses,” explained Cornel Fraefel, director of the Institute for Virology from the University of Zurich and author of the study.

Since the symptoms of an ALSV infection are similar to those of a TBE virus infection, Alongshan virus “could already pose a public health problem in Switzerland, although so far unrecognized,” according to the researchers.

Unlike what happens with the TBE virus, there are currently no methods of vaccination nor serological detection of the ALSV virus.

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“Now that we have identified the new virus and published the complete sequence of the viral genome, our team is developing a serological test to detect infections by the ALS virus in blood samples from patients”, stressed Fraefel, whose work has been published in the open access repository zenode.

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