December 26, 2014 – Algae Virus


Anchor lead:  Could a virus normally found in algae impact you? Elizabeth Tracey reports

A virus normally found in algae, that greenish organism best known for invading bodies of water as well as domestic swimming pools, can also be found in the throats of people, research by Robert Yolken, a virologist and pediatric infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, has found.  Yolken says the virus may have an impact on cognition.

Yolken: We asked the people to complete a series of cognitive tests, things like connecting dots that are ordered by number or asking them to remember lists of names, the kinds of things that you or I or anyone could do.  These people were all normal in the sense that they were in the normal range, there’s nothing about them that would be unusual but within the normal range some people had better memory than others.  And we found much to our surprise that finding this particular algae virus was associated with a small but a measureable decrease in some of the cognitive functions that we were measuring.   :28

Yolken says more research is needed but this finding is the first to associate a virus previously thought not to infect humans with throat infection.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.