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Background Since 2014, the United States has experienced a biennial spike in pediatric acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). Epidemiologic evidence suggests non-polio enteroviruses (EVs) are a potential etiology, yet EV RNA is rarely detected in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and only inconsistently identified from the respiratory tract, serum, or stool. Methods We interrogated CSF from children with AFM (n=42) and pediatric controls with other neurologic diseases (OND) (n=58). Samples were incubated with T7 bacteriophage expressing 481,966 sixty-two amino acid peptides with a fourteen amino acid overlap tiled across all known vertebrate virus and arbovirus genomes, an adaption of the VirScan method. Antibody-bound phage were deep sequenced to quantify enriched peptides with normalized counts expressed as reads per hundred thousand (rpK). EV antibody findings were confirmed with ELISA using whole viral protein 1 (VP1) from contemporary enterovirus (EV) A71 and D68 strains. Separately, metagenomic next-generation sequencing (mNGS) of CSF RNA, both unbiased and with targeted enrichment for EVs, was performed. Results The most significantly enriched viral family by VirScan of CSF in AFM versus OND controls was Picornaviridae (mean rpK 11,266 versus mean rpK 950, p-adjusted < 0.001, Wilcoxon signed-rank test with Bonferroni adjustment). Enriched Picornaviridae peptides belonged almost entirely to the genus Enterovirus. The mean EV VP1 ELISA signal in AFM (mean OD 0.51) was significantly higher than OND controls (mean OD 0.08, p-value < 0.001, Mann-Whitney test). mNGS did not detect additional enterovirus RNA in CSF. Conclusion Despite the rare detection of EV RNA in the CNS of patients with AFM, a pan-viral serologic assay identified high levels of CSF EV antibodies in AFM CSF compared to CSF from OND controls. These results provide further evidence for a causal role of non-polio enteroviruses in AFM.

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