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Patients are sought for W. Nile virus study

University Health Care physicians want to study people who have had West Nile virus to find genes that make people susceptible to the severe neurological diseases caused by the virus.

The University of Utah doctors hope to find 200-300 people who have survived severe cases of West Nile virus and about twice that many who have had mild cases. They will all be asked for a blood sample, although the U. will arrange and pay for the blood to be drawn and shipped to Salt Lake City, so travel won't be required.

A small number may be asked for hair, skin or cheek swab samples. And all participants will be required to sign a consent form. Information obtained from the study is confidential.

Most people who get the mosquito-transmitted virus don't show any symptoms or have only mild ones. But some develop severe neurologic symptoms and can even die.

The five-year study is part of the Regional Center for Excellence in Bioterrorism program at Colorado State University. Barry Beaty, distinguished professor of microbiology, immunology and pathology at Colorado State, and Dr. Michael J. Bamshad, associate professor of pediatrics and adjunct professor of human genetics at the U., are the principal investigators. Dr. John D. Kriesel, research assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the U., is the Utah co-investigator for infectious diseases.

People in Utah, Colorado and Arizona are particularly urged to participate in the U. study. Anyone interested can contact Ann Rutherford, Genetics of West Nile Study coordinator, at 801-585-9495.