Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) in children, the polio-like illness causing paralysis, appears to be caused by enteroviruses, according to a study. According to researchers, circumstantial evidence indicated that enteroviruses were the potential culprits of this mysterious illness.

The study was published in the medical journal Nature Medicine, led by Dr. Michael Wilson of the University of California, San Francisco.

 “This is circumstantial evidence that this is what's going on, but it's a powerful piece of circumstantial evidence,” lead researcher Wilson, said.

AFM begins like sniffles and has the potential to paralyze the infected children. There has been a rise in the number of children being infected by this virus every other year. An increase in bigger outbreaks was observed from late summer to the fall.

There have been 590 reported cases of AFM in the United Stated since 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency also reported that the number of cases reported in 2014 (120), 2016 (153) and 2018 (236) were comparatively higher. More than 20 cases of this disease have been reported this year.

Ever since the first case of this polio-like syndrome was reported in California in 2012, doctors were in search of the culprit. But they were unable to find the cause for it.

Now, with the help of a customized tool developed at Harvard, the researchers tested the spinal fluid of 42 AFM patients and 58 children with other neurological illnesses to search for possible viruses.

The research team found the antibodies targeting enterovirus, and strains of EV-D68 and EV-A71 in 70 percent of AFM patients and only 10 percent of other children.

Acute Flaccid Myelitis CDC reported there were 72 cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis in across 24 states in the U.S. In this image: A podium with the logo for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the Tom Harkin Global Communications Center Atlanta, Georgia, Oct. 5, 2014. Photo: Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox