Discovery in Africa gives insight for Australian Hendra virus outbreaks

Jan 12, 2012

A new study on African bats provides a vital clue for unravelling the mysteries in Australia's battle with the deadly Hendra virus.

The study focused on an isolated colony of straw-coloured on islands off the west coast of central Africa. By capturing the bats and collecting , scientists discovered these animals have antibodies that can neutralise known in Australia and Asia.

The paper is published today, 12 January, in the journal , and is a collaboration of the Department of at the University of Cambridge, the Zoological Society of London and the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

in Australia and Nipah virus in Asia are carried by fruit bats and sporadically "spill over" into people with tragic consequences. The findings of the new study are significant as they yield valuable insights for our understanding of how these viruses persist in bat populations.

Cambridge PhD student Alison Peel explains, "Hendra and Nipah viruses cause fatal infections in humans, but we currently understand very little about how the viruses are transmitted from bats to other animals or people. To understand what the risk factors for these 'spill-overs' are, it is crucial to understand how viruses are maintained in . The ability to study these viruses within an isolated bat colony has given us new insight into these processes."

It was previously believed that these viruses were maintained in large interconnected populations of bats, so that if the virus dies out in one colony, it would be reintroduced when bats from different colonies interact. The new study indicates that a closely related virus is able to persist in a very small and isolated population of bats. This is the first time this has been documented in a natural wild population, casting doubt on current theories.

Peel added, "Although Hendra and Nipah viruses are relatively new to science, it appears that bats have lived and evolved with them over a very long time. We hope that by gaining a better understanding of this relationship, we may then be able to understand why it is only within the last 20 years that spill-over to humans has occurred."

Explore further: Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

Related Stories

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 ...

Key to controlling deadly viruses in bat community

Feb 15, 2011

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.

Australia uses experimental drug to halt virus spread

Jun 01, 2010

An experimental drug so far only tested on animals has been given to an Australian woman and child in an effort to prevent an outbreak of a potentially deadly virus, health officials said Tuesday.

Fresh horse death as Australia virus spreads

Jul 07, 2011

Another six people have been tested for the deadly Hendra virus after it claimed the life of a seventh horse, officials said Thursday, as the killer outbreak spread south.

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.

Recommended for you

Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

May 23, 2015

Many animals feed on seeds, acorns or nuts. The common feature of these are that they have shells and there is no direct way to know what's inside. How do the animals know how much and what quality of food ...

Estuaries protect Dungeness crabs from deadly parasites

May 22, 2015

Parasitic worms can pose a serious threat to the Dungeness crab, a commercially important fishery species found along the west coast of North America. The worms are thought to have caused or contributed to ...

Our bond with dogs may go back more than 27,000 years

May 21, 2015

Dogs' special relationship to humans may go back 27,000 to 40,000 years, according to genomic analysis of an ancient Taimyr wolf bone reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 21. Earlier genome ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.