Doctors are hitting brick walls in their search for the cause of the polio-like condition that's partially paralyzed at least two dozen California children, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Doctors assume a virus is at work, but almost all of the patients they're examining weren't tested for viral causes until well after the virus would have left their bodies. Two of the first five patients to be examined thoroughly tested positive for enterovirus 68, a rare strain; another strain of enterovirus causes polio itself, and still others have led to polio-like symptoms in Australia and Asia.
Researchers are hoping to get funding for immunoglobulin testing, which would check to see if patients have similar tell-tale antibodies; that would suggest they all had the same virus. Doctors aren't even sure how to describe the disease; they're currently telling physicians to look for spinal cord abnormalities in addition to the paralysis. Many patients also had respiratory infection symptoms. "These cases ... have multiple causes, both infectious and non-infectious," a CDC official tells Decoded Science. "We are trying to understand what common features occur." He also said that cases of the disease outside of California might simply be going unreported. (Read more California stories.)