Key to controlling deadly viruses in bat community

February 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: New reovirus isolated

Related Stories

New reovirus isolated

June 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

November 4, 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

January 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 University.

All viruses 'can be DNA stowaways'

November 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 generation to generation ...

Scientists Develop Vaccine Against Deadly Viruses

October 4, 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

Canada conservationist warns of 'cyber poaching'

February 25, 2017

Photographers, poachers and eco-tour operators are in the crosshairs of a Canadian conservationist who warns that tracking tags are being hacked and misused to harass and hunt endangered animals.

How proteins reshape cell membranes

February 24, 2017

Small "bubbles" frequently form on membranes of cells and are taken up into their interior. The process involves EHD proteins - a focus of research by Prof. Oliver Daumke of the MDC. He and his team have now shed light on ...

Neanderthal DNA contributes to human gene expression

February 23, 2017

The last Neanderthal died 40,000 years ago, but much of their genome lives on, in bits and pieces, through modern humans. The impact of Neanderthals' genetic contribution has been uncertain: Do these snippets affect our genome's ...

0 comments

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.