bat virus research

Sugar's Mum

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Bat urine gives clue to deadly viruses
07:01 AEST Fri Aug 3 2012



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Scientists have discovered a bat-borne pathogen which they believe could lead to a better understanding of the deadly Hendra and Nipah viruses.

CSIRO scientists working in southern Queensland found traces of a previously unknown henipavirus, similar to Hendra, in bat urine samples.

Tests with the newly discovered Cedar virus suggest it is not nearly as harmful as the other diseases, according to CSIRO research scientist Glenn Marsh.

"Cedar virus caused a very mild infection," he said.

"The (tested) animals didn't show any signs of disease, and did produce antibodies to the virus."

Dr Marsh said the differences between the Cedar and Hendra viruses should reveal what makes the latter so deadly.

"Using advanced molecular biology methods, we'll be able to genetically engineer viruses in which we have modified genes or switched genes between Hendra and Cedar virus," he said.

"This will allow further infection studies to identify which genes of Hendra virus are important for its disease-causing ability.

"It's believed the Cedar virus could be the tool to answer the question of what makes Hendra so lethal."

Hendra and Nipah viruses, both spread by bats, have a fatality rate of more than 70 per cent in infected humans and animals.

In Queensland alone, four people have died of Hendra since 1994.

The CSIRO's research will be published in the PLoS Pathogens journal.
 
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