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Infectious-disease researchers hunting for the cause of a mysterious illness that is paralyzing children are combining machine learning with a new gene-sequencing technique to pin down the culprit.

The disease, called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), causes limb weakness and paralysis that resembles the symptoms of polio. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, has confirmed 134 cases of AFM in the US so far this year. Many of those who develop the illness never recover.

Most of the evidence suggests that an enterovirus called EV-D681 is causing the illness, but researchers haven’t been able to find the pathogen in the spinal fluid of sick children. Scientists are trying to identify the culprit by using a combination of host-response diagnostics — which look at how the immune system responds to pathogens — and machine-learning analysis. The approach could lead to better diagnostics and provide hints about new treatments.

…continue reading ‘Machine Learning Helps to Hunt Down the Cause of a Paralyzing Illness’

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