January 13, 2012 | Graham

Dark continent holds insight into Hendra virus

Researchers at Cambridge University, the Zoological Society of London and CSIRO have over-turned theories on Hendra virus in a study of an isolated colony of straw-coloured fruit bats on islands off the west coast of Africa and found that some African bats carry anti-viruses to the disease.

Previously it was thought that the virus only existed distributed over widespread colonies of bats, but this work in an isolated colony showed that the animals had co-existed with the disease for quite some time, although it has only spilled into human populations in the last 20 years.

For me another interesting insight from the paper was that while the Australian media reports the “deadly” Hendra virus as though it evolved in a nearby suburb of Brisbane, apparently a similar virus called Nipah virus is present in fruit bat populations in Asia and appears to have been known well before Hendra Virus.

In other not-so-good Hendra virus news apparently not only horses but cats can contract and spread the disease.

For a Queenslander this is not good news. There is a greater risk of catching Hendra virus than there is of being taken by a shark, and infection is almost always fatal. Bats are prolific in the trees of Brisbane with a colony near here on a well-traversed bike path at Coorparoo, and while horses could catch and transmit the disease, they are nowhere as widely-owned as moggies.

As my partner’s two girls are frequently about horses and just acquired a cat, and bats jump out of low lying branches when I come home, the disease seems a particularly ominous, if not significant, risk.

The Cambridge/CSIRO release reads:

Discovery in Africa gives insight for Australian Hendra virus outbreaks

Researchers find that African bats have antibodies that neutralise deadly virus

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 fruit bats on islands off the west coast of central Africa. By capturing the bats and collecting blood samples, scientists discovered these animals have antibodies that can neutralise deadly viruses known in Australia and Asia.

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

Hendra virus 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 bat populations. 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.”

Posted by Graham at 8:00 am | Comments (2) |
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  1. You will find this interesting. http://tvglobalresearch.ca/2012/01/mass-panic-over-bird-flu-experiments

    Many within the environmental and scientific community see too many humans as being the real problem and not climate change,extinctions or pollution.

    They don’t of course include themselves as being a problem because they are the elites.

    It has been proven that education allows women to have control over their fertility but the elites maintain that weapons,disease and poverty are better at controlling populations.

    The reality has been the opposite.Wars,ignorance and poverty have vastly increased populations.

    Comment by Ross — January 14, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

  2. http://tv.globalresearch.ca/2012/01/mass-panic-over-bird-flu-experiments James Corbett reveals that Govts are the biggest sponsors of bio-terrorism.There is no doubt that they are experimenting with viruses and bacteria as weapons of war,however these same weapons can be used upon us if we too are perceived as being a threat.

    Comment by Ross — January 14, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

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