Johns Hopkins Medicine and University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) researchers will lead a multicenter, multinational study of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), the “poliolike” condition affecting children that causes loss of muscle control. The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded an approximate $10 million contract to UAB that will fund at least 38 research sites across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Peru.
AFM is a rare condition that causes inflammation and damage to the spinal cord in children, resulting in a sudden paralysis of arms and/or legs and loss of muscle strength and reflexes. Other symptoms can include facial drooping, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech and trouble breathing.
“The major problem with AFM as a public health threat is not only the emergence of hundreds of cases around the U.S. and the world, but the fact that AFM produces devastating and long-standing neurological problems for children affected,” says Carlos Pardo-Villamizar, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Transverse Myelitis Center and co-principal investigator of the study. “Thus, there is an urgent need for a concerted collaborative effort around the country to tackle the problem with our best research tools and come up with better options for diagnosis and treatment, to help children and families affected.”