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.

The health department in the northeastern state of Queensland said the pair were given the treatment, which has been tested on ferrets, to protect against the , which is spread to humans from horses.

"Queensland Health offered the mother and daughter treatment which is still under development," a spokesman said.

The Hendra virus, which has killed four people in Australia since is was first documented in 1994, is understood to be carried by fruit bats and spread via their urine, other bodily fluids and droppings.

The bats, which have no symptoms of the disease, then pass the infection to horses, possibly via half-chewed fruit or other water or food they contaminate, and these animals then transmit it to humans through close contact.

The mother and her 12-year-old daughter were potentially exposed to the virus after the girl's horse died from the disease two weeks ago. As of late Monday, they were in good health and showing no symptoms, the spokesman said.

With fruit bat populations growing and moving around Australia, health officials are hoping to begin producing the anti-serum locally and are already in talks with a research foundation in the United States.

Barry Smyth, vice-president of the Australian Veterinary Association, said , also known as flying foxes, were being found in areas they had never previously been seen, which could increase the risk of an outbreak.

"These flying fox populations, their habitat is being impacted by land clearing and urbanisation and so they have had to change their area where they normally circulate," Smyth told AFP.

"And this brings them in ever closer contact with human populations and other animal populations including horses."

The Hendra virus is difficult to detect because it produces a range of symptoms in horses -- none of which are exclusive to the virus -- and the animal can be infectious for two or three days before it shows any symptoms.

The virus, which is believed to be unique to Australia, is named after the Brisbane suburb where it was first documented and can lead to fatal respiratory illness in humans and horses.

Explore further: Philippines boosts MERS monitoring after UAE nurse scare

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Minimising the spread of deadly Hendra virus

Mar 31, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- CSIRO Livestock Industries' scientists working at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), in Geelong Victoria, have made a major breakthrough in better understanding how Hendra spreads ...

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 ...

Breakthrough in fight against Hendra virus

Oct 30, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- There has been a breakthrough in the fight against the deadly Hendra virus following the development of a treatment which shows great potential to save the lives of people who become infected ...

New and improved test for West Nile virus in horses

Aug 20, 2008

A new test for West Nile virus in horses that could be modified for use on humans and wildlife may help track the spread of the disease, according to an article in the September issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

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

US orders farms to report pig virus infections

Apr 18, 2014

The U.S. government is starting a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of pigs since showing up in the country last year.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

Apr 18, 2014

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

Apr 18, 2014

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma

Apr 18, 2014

A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...