Key to controlling deadly viruses in bat community

Feb 15, 2011
CSIRO PhD student working at the highest level of biosecurity - biosecurity level 4 - at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory. Credit: CSIRO

CSIRO research into how bats can host some of the world’s deadliest viruses without suffering any ill-effects themselves will lead to improved strategies for controlling the spread of bat-borne diseases.

“CSIRO is helping to safeguard the health of Australians and livestock through a comprehensive research program that examines how bats have adapted to co-exist with some of the most deadly viruses known,” says the leader of a team of scientists at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), in Geelong Victoria, Dr. Linfa Wang.

In an address today to more than 600 delegates at the 1st International One Health Congress in Melbourne, Dr. Wang said the aim is to better understand bat immunology and the bat virus-host interaction to identify strategies to control viruses such as Hendra spreading to other animals and people.

“In order to better control the spread of viruses like Hendra – from bats to horses and then on to people – it is becoming increasingly important to learn what governs the interactions between viruses and their hosts and, in particular, the phenomenon of ‘host switching’,” Dr. Wang said.

“The term ‘host-switching’ is used to describe the situation where a virus spreads from an existing host to a ‘new’ host species.

“In some cases these host-switching events go unnoticed, as no disease develops in the new host, however in other situations the virus adapts to the new species and causes severe disease and in some cases death.” 

Bats are known to be a key source of viruses that have been involved in host-switching incidents – including Hendra, Ebola and SARS – and appear to have developed the ability to tolerate infections with these pathogens that are otherwise fatal when spread to other mammals.

appear to have some kind of ‘viral radar’ – a highly effective immune system which provides them with broad spectrum protection against viral attack,” Dr. Wang said. 

“Our research will assist in developing faster, more sensitive surveillance tools that may radically change the risk management of zoonotic diseases within Australia and worldwide. 

“That will mean we can move forward from just responding when an outbreak occurs, to putting pre-emergence surveillance and prevention strategies in place.”

Explore further: Warning coloration paved the way for louder, more complex calls in certain species of poisonous frogs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New reovirus isolated

Jun 27, 2007

CSIRO scientists have played a key role in discovering that bats are the likely host of a new virus that can cause a serious but apparently non-fatal respiratory tract illness in humans.

Modern society made up of all types

Nov 04, 2010

Modern society has an intense interest in classifying people into ‘types’, according to a University of Melbourne Cultural Historian, leading to potentially catastrophic life-changing outcomes for those typed – ...

Cuckoos evolve to fool angry birds

Jan 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Australian cuckoo birds have taken a new evolutionary step – mimicking the color of their host young to avoid certain death, according to a study by researchers from The Australian National ...

All viruses 'can be DNA stowaways'

Nov 19, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- 'Fossil viruses' preserved inside the DNA of mammals and insects suggest that all viruses, including relatives of HIV and Ebola, could potentially be ‘stowaways’ transmitted from ...

Scientists Develop Vaccine Against Deadly Viruses

Oct 04, 2006

Scientists from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), in collaboration with counterparts from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), have developed a vaccine to fight two deadly animal viruses ...

Recommended for you

Cat dentals fill you with dread?

Oct 24, 2014

A survey published this year found that over 50% of final year veterinary students in the UK do not feel confident either in discussing orodental problems with clients or in performing a detailed examination of the oral cavity ...

User comments : 0