Breakthrough in fight against Hendra virus Electron micrograph of Hendra virus. Electron micrograph of Hendra virus. There's been a breakthrough in the fight against Hendra virus following the development of a treatment with great potential to save the lives of infected people. A scientific team from CSIRO and various institutions in the United States has demonstrated that administering human monoclonal antibodies after exposure to Nipah virus (which is closely related to Hendra virus) protects animals from challenge in a disease model. According to Deborah Middleton, who led the experiments at Livestock Industries' maximum biosecurity facility, the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, the findings are extremely encouraging. ‘Our research clearly suggests that an effective treatment for Hendra virus infections in humans should be possible, given the very strong cross-reactive activity this antibody has against Hendra virus', she said. First identified in Brisbane and isolated by CSIRO scientists in 1994, Hendra virus, which spreads from flying foxes, has regularly infected horses in Australia. Of the 12 equine outbreaks, four have led to human infection, with four of the seven known human cases being fatal, the most recent of these in September 2009. Dr Deborah Middleton Livestock Industries' Dr Deborah Middleton led a team of researchers from Australia and the US which may have found an effective treatment for Hendra virus. Deborah said the success of the antibody will probably depend on dose and time of administration. 'As Hendra and Nipah viruses cause severe disease in humans, a successful application of this antibody as a post-exposure therapy will likely require early intervention', she said. ‘To make clinical use of it against these viruses, it will need to be prepared under proper manufacturing guidelines, carefully evaluated again in animal models and safety tested for human use. We hope this demonstration of antiviral activity will lead to some immediate activities to facilitate further development for its use in humans.' The results of this latest research, conducted in collaboration with scientists from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health in the United States, were recently published in the open access journal PLoS Pathogens. Read the paper Human monoclonal antibodies protect against lethal Nipah virus and find out more about the Hendra virus.