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Mysterious outbreak of viruses linked to cruel religious rituals



Doctors were confused when a group of 10 people living in London reported an outbreak of a little-known virus. They were not drug users, had never received a blood transfusion and had no other identifiable risk factors for blood-borne viruses

the patient is back. As a result, they identified a common thread between all infected men: they were all Muslims who had participated in a bloody religious rite with a common blade.

Report in Journal Emerging Infectious Diseases Scientists from Imperial College London and St Mary's Hospital in London investigated the spread of human T cell lymphotropic virus type 1

(1965) HTLV-1) by self-labeling.

All men appeared to have acquired the bloodborne virus separately through a religious ritual in which wounds with sticks or blows were used to express faith in some Shiite Islamic and Catholic communities.

One of the men even remembered the blades soaked in a bucket of an antiseptic solution, along with the blades used by other men. While you might assume that this was enough to sterilize the equipment, the virus survived and was passed on to other men who opened wounds with the blade

Commemoration ceremonies in the Arab district of Varanasi, India. Jose HERNANDEZ / Shutterstock

"It is likely that either the use of blood-stained blades, the reuse of personal equipment after inadequate cleaning with a disinfectant, contact with infected blood with open wounds or contact with infected medical devices for HTLV-1 Transmission ", write the authors of the study.

HTLV-1 is actually a distant relative of HIV. The vast majority of people with HTLV-1 show no symptoms, however, 2 to 5 percent of infected individuals suffer a cancer of T cells, a white type blood cell. Less than 2 percent of people with HTLV-1 develop HAM / TSP, a chronic nervous system disorder. Unfortunately, no cure is yet known.

The most common cause of transmission is breastfeeding, needle sharing and sexual transmission. Doctors in the case now argue that self-flagellation should be included in the list of options to spread a dangerous viral blood infection. They find that one of the men also had hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that can eventually lead to life-threatening damage to the liver. Although this religious ritual is fairly common in some parts of the world, it has never been officially described as a risk factor.

"Our message is not" Do not do it. "Our message is, 'When you do this, you do not share equipment,' said Dr. Divya Dhasmana from St. Mary's Hospital in London to The Associated Press.


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