Health officials say they have made an important discovery in the mystery surrounding the deaths of more than 60 children in Cambodia.
The Institut Pasteur in Cambodia tested samples taken from 24 patients and found 15 had tested positive for Enterovirus Type 71.
"These results now give a good explanation to this outbreak," Dr. Philippe Buchy, head of the institute's virology unit, said in an e-mail. "We will get more results hopefully by next Tuesday or Wednesday."
Though the detection of EV71 is significant, there may be other factors, said Dr. Beat Richner of Kantha Bopha hospitals.
Over the past three months, 66 children -- between 2 and 3 years old -- were admitted to Kantha Bopha facilities. All but two died mysteriously after suffering severe neurological and respiratory complications, Richner said.
In their last hours of their life, the children suffered a "total destruction of the alveola(e) in the lungs," Richner said.
"We have now to see what really is causing the deadly pulmonary complication and see if a toxic factor is playing a role too," he said.
The positive test for EV71 does not particularly help in the treatment of the illness, as there is no effective antiviral treatment for severe EV71 infections, and no vaccine is available.
In milder cases, EV71 can cause coldlike symptoms, diarrhea and sores on the hands, feet and mouth, according to the journal Genetic Vaccines and Therapy.
But more severe cases can cause fluid to accumulate on the brain, resulting in polio-like paralysis and death.