Minimising the spread of deadly Hendra virus

March 31, 2009
This artificially coloured electron micrograph of Hendra virus is from the first identified case in Brisbane in 1994

(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 from infected horses to other horses and humans.

Funded by the Australian Biosecurity CRC for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Dr Deb Middleton and her team at AAHL have defined the period following the first signs of when horses are most likely to shed Hendra and therefore infect other horses and people.

First identified in Brisbane in 1994, Hendra virus, which spreads from flying foxes, has regularly infected horses in Australia. Of the 11 equine outbreaks, four have led to human infection, with three of the six known human cases being fatal, the most recent of these in August 2008.

Provided by Dr Middleton says limited information in the past, on when the disease can transmit, has made it difficult to manage infected horses to stop Hendra spreading further to people and other susceptible horses.

"Our research has also determined the best biological samples required for rapid diagnosis of the virus in horses and identified the important relationship between the period of highest transmission risk and the time with which the disease can easily be detected," Dr Middleton says.

As a result of these findings, veterinarians and horse owners are likely to consider the possibility of Hendra virus infection sooner when dealing with sick horses. This will mean appropriate management strategies can be put in place immediately, reducing the risk of spread while testing is being carried out.

"Unlike in horse flu, where apparently healthy horses can transmit the virus, horses in the early stages of Hendra infection generally appear to be at lower risk compared to animals with more advanced signs of illness."

These research findings will be used to update the guidelines that horse owners and vets use to handle potential Hendra virus infections.

Dr Middleton says her research also indicates there is an opportunity to diagnose Hendra virus in horses early, prior to advanced clinical signs and the highest risk of transmission.

"Developing a sensitive and specific stall-side test, which vets could use out in the field to diagnose the disease, has become even more important. However there are still key challenges to developing this type of advanced technology."

Although it is still not known how Hendra spreads from flying foxes to horses, Dr Middleton says the key to preventing human exposure and the exposure of additional horses is first understanding the disease in horses and secondly controlling the viral spread from diseased horses.

Provided by CSIRO

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

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.