Never-before-seen virus sickens man in Peru: 20-year-old left with fever and crippling headaches after catching malaria-like illness

  • An unidentified patient went to hospital with a fever, chills and muscle pain
  • Scientists, who studied his blood, discovered a never-before-seen pathogen

A new virus has been detected in a 20-year-old man in Peru.

The patient, who has not been identified, went to hospital with symptoms including a fever, chills and muscle and joint pain.

It is unclear whether the construction worker recovered from his illness.

But scientists, who took a sample of his blood in a bid to find out what was behind his symptoms, discovered a never-before-seen pathogen.

They called for health chiefs to monitor the viruses behind malaria-like symptoms so they can spot emerging infections and protect public health.

The team, led by research technician Gilda Troncos, said their findings suggest that a novel Echarate virus variant is circulating in the jungle of central Peru. Pictured: Amazon rainforest in Manu National Park, around 560 miles south of where the infection was spotted

The virus is a phlebovirus, which can be spread by sandflies, mosquitoes or ticks.

Infections trigger a high fever, severe headaches, muscle pain meningitis.

Rift Valley fever is the most well-known illness that phlebovirus can trigger. People who develop this can develop a life-threatening haemorrhagic fever, which causes bleeding from the mouth, eyes and ears, as well as the internal organs.

Until now, only three phleboviruses that cause a fever had been detect in Peru.

The patient showed up at Hospital De La Merced Chanchamayo in central Peru in June 2019. His symptoms included headaches, tiredness, sensitivity to light and a loss of appetite.

Medics took a blood sample and sent it for lab testing.

Researchers at the US Naval Medical Research Unit in Lima analysed the sample and detected the Candiru phlebovirus.

However, segments of the virus showed differences from the Candiru virus that ‘could not be explained by virus mutation’, indicating the man was infected with a new virus. 

Analysis suggested that the pathogen was formed by the Candiru virus recombing with a novel strain of the Echarate virus.

The team, led by research technician Gilda Troncos, said their findings suggest that a novel Echarate virus variant is circulating in the jungle of central Peru. 

The illness caused by the virus is similar to dengue, malaria and other tropical infections, they wrote in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Ongoing surveillance is needed among patients with these symptoms to detect new viruses and protect public health, the researchers warned. 

They called for ecological studies to find out how widespread the new variant is within the region and spot potential sources of infection. 

In response to the new virus, health bosses in the UK echoed calls for patients with a fever-causing illness to be monitored.

The UK Health Security Agency said this is ‘necessary to detect novel and emerging pathogens’.