Thursday, June 07, 2007

US scientists discover new, potentially deadly bacteria

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - In a dramatic case of microbial sleuthing, US scientists said they have discovered a new, potentially deadly strain of bacteria previously unknown to medicine.

The bacteria was found in a 43-year-old American woman who had traveled across Peru for three weeks and suffered from symptoms similar to typhoid fever or malaria. The woman has since recovered.

Named Bartonella rochalimae, the new species is a close relative of a microbe that sickened thousands of soldiers during the First World War with what became known as trench fever, spread through body lice.

It is also related to a bacteria identified 10 years ago during the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco as the cause of cat scratch disease, which infects 25,000 people a year in the United States.

It was this previous work on cat scratch disease related to AIDS that helped experts at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isolate the new bacteria found in the female traveler.

The findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Two weeks after returning to the United States from her trip to Peru, the woman experienced potentially life-threatening anemia, a rash, an enlarged spleen, insomnia and a high fever that lasted for several weeks.

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