Researchers from the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille, France have found evidence that suggest a virus common to peppers may have moved on to infect humans. Recently, a number of people have become ill and the RNA from the pepper mild mottle virus was found in their feces.
Didier Raoult of the UOM believes that it is possible the plant virus could be causing their symptoms. Of the 304 tested, 7 percent were found to have the virus in their feces. Those which did were more likely to have fever, abdominal pain and itching.
It is possible, however, for the increased symptoms be more coincidence than not. It is highly rare for this to occur. Virologist Robert Garry from the Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana says, “In order to enter a cell and replicate, a virus must bind to a receptor on its surface, and a plant virus would be highly unlikely to recognize a receptor on a human cell.”
He continues to state that, “One possibility is that the virus does not infect human cells directly. Instead, the naked viral RNA may alter the function of the cells through a mechanism similar to RNA interference, in which the presence of certain RNA sequences can turn genes on and off.”
Further research is being done by the team at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille. Full study can be found here.